Sensical’s Bethany Boles

Bethany Boles, head of programming at Sensical, tells TV Kids about the approach to acquisitions and the importance of having enough diverse quality content.

Inspired by the expertise of Common Sense Media, Sensical is a free streaming service offering thousands of age-appropriate, entertaining and educational videos for kids 2 to 10. It is positioned as an algorithm-free destination where kids can scroll, tap and follow their passions across 50-plus topic-based channels.

***Image***TV KIDS: What role do acquisitions play for Sensical?
BOLES: We’re the new kid on the block. We are purely acquisitions right now. We hope to have original programming at some point down the line, but right now, we’re all about the volume game, so acquisitions are everything to us. We are sourcing content from traditional studios and distributors and working directly with digital-first creators from all over the web, mostly from YouTube, trying to source safe and exciting content for kids in a short-form way.

TV KIDS: What’s guiding the programming strategy?
BOLES: We’re part of Common Sense Networks, an affiliate of Common Sense Media. So, we were developed as a spin-off of Common Sense Media, focusing on short-form. All our content is filtered through the world’s only age-appropriate content standards, grounded in child development and developed by experts from Common Sense Media over the last 20 years. We borrow heavily from what Common Sense Media is doing. We’re all about filtering for age appropriateness. Our content is segmented by age. We have three separate libraries within our app: 2 to 4, 5 to 7 and 8 and up. We are taking a very close look at the content coming our way. Not everything is going to be for Sensical, but if it is, we want it. So, we’re looking for a safety element, and we want to make sure that [kids] are getting the stuff that they want. We want content that’s interest-based because what we’re all about is encouraging kids to explore their passions. We are looking for content that, in addition to being age-appropriate, encourages kids to learn something new and then go out and try it once they’re done watching Sensical.

TV KIDS: What are you currently on the lookout for?
BOLES: We have three different age demos that we program separately. Where we’re feeling like we would like some more is keying into that older kid demo. I think we all know how hard it is to keep kids watching kids’ TV. Finding compelling content for older kids is always important to us. In addition to our AVOD platform, we have a number of linear FAST channels, which we provide through our app directly and on Roku and VIZIO. So, we have a lot of time to fill, and we want to make sure we’re filling it with the best stuff. In that older bracket, we all know that gaming content is crushing it. So, we’re always looking for age-appropriate gaming content—that’s the tricky part. We know that kids are going to seek this stuff out, so we feel it’s our duty to give parents the peace of mind that if they watch gaming content on Sensical, it’s going to be something that doesn’t have anything objectionable in it. So, safe, age-appropriate gaming content is always a big winner with us, as well as leaning into the other digital-first trends—trick shots, challenges, that kind of content. We have the ability to program that on our platform. We’re looking for content across all ages that leans into what we call “watch and do”: cooking, arts and crafts, science experiments, things kids can explore and hopefully want to go off and try, maybe even as a family. Content that inspires, content that encourages exploring passions. And give us all the Minecraft, give us all the Roblox, just bring it on!

TV KIDS: Is there anything you’d like to pick up for the platform that you’re not seeing enough of in the marketplace?
BOLES: Having enough diverse quality content is of utmost importance to us. We talk about wanting every kid to be able to see themselves in our content. That includes diversity in its many forms. We are seeking out content that not only features diverse characters but is also made by diverse creators. We are struggling to find content by Latinx creators and featuring Latinx characters. Despite being one of the largest non-white populations in America, there just isn’t the content to match that. We are very much seeking that. We want content from creators of all backgrounds. We want to make sure that kids are seeing themselves in our content.

TV KIDS: What’s your view on content exclusivity?
BOLES: A lot of [our content] comes from YouTubers directly, so we’re not trying to get in the way of anybody’s bread and butter. But at the same time, we hope that as we continue to grow, eventually, exclusivity is going to be a bigger part of our conversation. Right now, we’re more about volume. Exclusivity just isn’t our priority. We are certainly looking to make deals that allow us rights for our growing products. As we grow as a company, we’re thinking about worldwide, expanding with different FAST partners potentially. Those are the kinds of rights that we’re trying to work into our deals going forward. When we get to the point where we’re ready to have those conversations about exclusivity, it’ll be data-driven. We’re just not quite there yet.

TV KIDS: What advice can you share for producers or distributors looking to land programming on your platform?
BOLES: The advice I’d give to people looking to bring their content over to Sensical is: Come in with a point of view. Have a clear audience in mind. Having a clear idea of where you think your content fits within one or more of [our] age brackets is helpful for us. We want to make sure that the content demonstrates benefits, whether learning benefits or D&I or social-emotional character-building elements. And then content that focuses on topics that kids love. So whether it is instructional—cooking, arts and crafts, sports tutorials—or more topic-based like travel or sports or music, we want to give kids what they want and do it in an age-appropriate way.