Once pandemic shelter-at-home restrictions began, millions of families found themselves deprived of contact with friends and relatives, not to mention their familiar forms of recreation. As they were forced to connect through their video calls, the question everyone seemed to be asking each other was: “What are you watching?”
It had become an urgent query. Parents juggling work-from-home without childcare suddenly had to become content curators for their kids, even co-viewing shows that previously would have been the sole province of the little ones. With that — and who thought these words would ever be written?— the Internet brought families together.
It proved an ideal moment for an emerging player in the children’s television space: Kidoodle.TV.
The ad-supported app, geared for families with children under 12, curates over 21,000 episodes of children’s content, intended for co-viewing or safe independent viewing.
The service’s lineup is filled with familiar library titles, including “PAW Patrol Shorts,” “Talking Tom,”“Winx Club” and “Wallace and Gromit.” It also recently announced its first foray into original programming, with Wes Tank’s “StoryRaps,” based on the viral sensation where the performer raps classic children’s storybooks. Kidoodle.TV plans to unveil more originals over the next year.
“With the growing concern about open, user-generated content platforms for kids or channels with adult-skewed content, families have been looking for a channel like ours where kids won’t be subjected to inappropriate content or ads,” says Neil Gruninger, president and chief product officer of Kidoodle.TV.
“We serve low, middle and high-income families with no barrier to entry like a subscription fee,” says Gruninger. “Our Safe Streaming™ standard — where we vet every single piece of content that exists on the platform, from our episodes to our advertisements — gives parents peace of mind that when they aren’t co-viewing with their kids, their children are safe.” The offering has proven appealing enough to get families in more than 140 countries to sign up.
Kidoodle.TV’s vetting doesn’t rely solely on technology. In addition to a real-time ad verification system, it has enlisted grandparents around the world to view all content episodes before anything goes live.
The Safe Streaming™ strategy is paying off with dramatic growth. The Kidoodle.TV app has been ranked as the No. 1 trending app for Android phones and the number of families signed up has increased in excess of 607 percent since January. “We added over 1.26 million MAU (monthly additional users) in July alone,” says Gruninger, “and expect to have monthly growth to continue at 35+% for the remainder of 2020.” Parents concerned about inappropriate auto-recommendations for children coming from services built for adults are turning to Kidoodle.TV and finding true family programming, presented in a trusted way.
Kidoodle.TV’s chief content officer, Brenda Bisner, explains, “Harnessing the content kids want to watch is our top priority. Whether parents are co-viewing with their children or allowing them independent, safe screen time, we offer an array of options that kids and families equally love,” Viewing statistics suggest Kidoodle.TV has spotted a trend. Even when restrictions were lifted, co-viewing through connected TVs continued. It could prove to be the new normal.
The company’s CEO, Mike Lowe, says the benefits of co-viewing go beyond family bonding. “Experts are discovering how important co-viewing can be for young children,” he says. “It can support early literacy skills and boost empathic responses and relationships in children.”
Co-viewing also opens an opportunity for advertisers. With COVID-19 keeping many families at home, growth in streaming TV has exceeded all predictions, up 81 percent year-on-year according to one ratings report. That translates into more than four billion additional hours per week of Internet-fueled screen time.
Parents accept watching ads when watching content for free, but a March 2020 Wakefield Research study commissioned by Kidoodle.TV reveals 67 percent of parents prefer those spots be tailored for moments that parents have a child sitting next to them, even if the parents are the target of the ad.
For parents, co-viewing is more than the chance to simply spend time in front of a screen with their child; it’s the chance to create a memory. Kidoodle.TV’s new “StoryRaps” offers an opportunity to do just that. Wes Tank’s videos have inspired families to engage with children in what would otherwise be ordinary reading time, and to create new memories in a way that all families can explore.
Bisner says, “We carefully measured the viral success that Wes Tank created, with families creating their own rap videos, proving that reading time can be something more engaging. That’s the type of movement Kidoodle.TV Originals intends to promote and create. Our focus is to produce content that supports more of an interactive experience for the whole family, around the globe.”
As a content creator, Wes Tank says he’s thrilled to see “StoryRaps” arriving in homes worldwide through Kidoodle.TV’s stringently safe platform. “For a technology company, they are surprisingly human,” he says of Kidoodle. “I genuinely care about the well-being of my audience’s minds and don’t want my videos to send younger viewers down any unsavory rabbit-holes that may arise due to unchecked algorithms or Internet trolls. I also think it’s really cool that Kidoodle.TV doesn’t abuse people’s data.”
As the COVID-19 virus persists and many families are likely to continue staying at home for weeks or months to come, Kidoodle.TV’s philosophy of screen time as an inspiration for family activities may be just what the doctor ordered.
Bisner says, “Content is not just a passive experience and if the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that people have been incredibly creative and inspired while consuming digital media. And Kidoodle.TV is a big part of that trend.”
“As a mom of a 6 year old, I have read some of these books hundreds of times, being able to show my daughter a new way to explore reading together has become such a wonderful memory for us. She is dancing and trying to be like Wes, and so am I.”
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