Hopster’s Ellen Solberg

Ellen Solberg, Hopster’s head of content, shares with TV Kids what types of programming fit the brand’s values.

The ad-free kids’ platform Hopster is dedicated to delivering kids ages 2 to 6 content they can learn from through stories they love. Though there are originals on the service, the majority of the programming is acquired, and Ellen Solberg, Hopster’s head of content, shares with TV Kids Weekly what types of programming fit the brand’s values.

***Viacom***TV KIDS: What’s your take on the overall health and state of the kids’ programming business?
SOLBERG: It’s moving in the right direction. There is more focus on important issues such as diversity and representation, combating stereotypes, mental health and the environment, and we’re seeing these changes reflected in new productions. Of course, there’s still a lot that can be done, and the important thing is to continue to raise awareness within the industry.

Our report Is Kids TV Making Your Child Prejudice? highlighted that terrestrial TV’s quality of content is generally better and stronger in terms of diversity, inclusivity and challenging stereotypes—because they are regulated. Kids’ platforms, buyers and commissioners need to work harder and regulate themselves to have stronger diverse and inclusive original content.

TV KIDS: In terms of genres, what are you currently on the lookout for?
SOLBERG: For next year, we’re looking forward to celebrating the Paralympics, Black History Month, International Women’s Day and International Men’s Day, and also looking for content that encourages physical activity. We’re interested in engaging content that introduces kids to careers as well.

We target 2- to 6-year-olds and are interested in all content that fits within that range.

TV KIDS: What about desired lengths and formats?
SOLBERG: We’re very flexible when it comes to lengths, formats and number of episodes. We do see episode lengths perform differently depending on the platform they are viewed on: in our app, we see short-form content performing better, and on TV platforms, longer shows get more views.

TV KIDS: What are some of the previous acquisitions that have performed well for the platform?
SOLBERG: We see a range of content perform well on Hopster—from well-recognized IP such as Pocoyo and The Hive to more indie shows like Cutie Pugs and Rita and Crocodile. Our original content often appears in our top-viewed shows too; our shows Saturday Club, Two Minute Tales and Hopster Jam all perform very strongly.

TV KIDS: What qualities do you look for in a show in order for it to sit alongside the channel’s original programming and its current slate?
SOLBERG: It’s important to us that the content fits our brand values. We want to share stories that are diverse and inclusive, and that kids can learn something from, while also being fun and engaging! We have a curriculum that we use when acquiring and commissioning content that helps us to ensure that we cover a wide range of topics and learning areas.

TV KIDS: How much of Hopster’s schedule is currently acquisitions versus in-house or commissions?
SOLBERG: Right now, about 95 percent of our content is acquired, with only around 5 percent being commissioned content. We would like to create more of our own originals over the coming years though, and we are keen to find creative and talented people to collaborate with on these.

TV KIDS: What’s the strategy for and view on co-productions?
SOLBERG: We’ve worked on several co-productions so far and love to work with and learn from others who are passionate about creating wholesome and quality content for preschool kids. An objective behind our productions has been to create content that we feel is missing in the kids’ content space. For example, for Pride last year when we couldn’t find enough content to acquire, we created our own LGBT+ show called Rainbow Stories. For Earth Day this year, we wanted to support all the school kids who are striking for positive environmental change, which led us to commission Kids Who Save the World, a show that introduces five passionate kids and their approach to looking after the planet. We believe that when commissioning content it’s important to hire and create with diversity and inclusivity in mind, and do what we can to contribute to more accurate representation on-screen.

TV KIDS: With regard to rights, what are some of the key negotiations and considerations nowadays?
SOLBERG: We’re a global service, so we are ideally looking for content that has worldwide rights for SVOD, normally non-exclusively. We’re available in a few languages so it’s a plus if there are other languages available or if dubbing is quite straightforward.

TV KIDS: With all the competition in the kids’ landscape today, how is Hopster maintaining its positioning?
SOLBERG: There are many children’s brands that offer educational entertaining content but our USP is that we offer preschoolers inclusive, diverse, gender-neutral content. We feel that this is a strong offering that has never been more relevant than it is today. We consistently get positive feedback from our global partners that this brand identity and our content offering is why they love Hopster.