The battle for Alpha eyeballs

Kate Durling is director of production at  Havas Sports & Entertainment
Kate Durling is director of production at Havas Sports & Entertainment

With half-term upon us, the rise of on-demand streaming services for children is the new front-line battle in on-demand content.

As any parent to young children will testify, kids watch TV in a completely different way to adults. Not only are they quite happy to binge-watch 40 episodes straight of Teen Titans Go! season four, they’ll also happily sit, glued to Tangled for the umpteen time, as if it were the film’s premiere.  

These repetitive viewing habits make kids the ideal audience for on-demand streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Add to this, the fact that the Alpha generation alone, (children of millennials born after 2011), hold a significant amount of purchasing influence over their parents who are now in their prime spending years, and it’s easy to see why children’s programming, form the new front-line in the battle for subscription-based TV audiences.

In the summer of 2015, HBO signed a five-year deal with Sesame Street, adding one of the most respected and well loved American brands into its children’s subscription-only stable.

In January 2016, Netflix then announced it would spend a large chunk of its $5bn (£3.8bn) programming budget on content aimed at children. At the time, it had 15 original programmes targeting children. This had risen to 35 by January this year. 

Some 54% of kids aged between five and seven and 73% of those aged between eight and 11 use YouTube every day Ofcom

In response, the BBC announced in July this year that it’s investing £34m to develop children’s content over the next three years, in an effort to compete with the giants of the streaming world.

The BBC is not only competing for viewing figures with the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime, it’s also battling with YouTube for younger viewers. Some 54% of kids aged between five and seven and 73% of those aged between eight and 11 use YouTube every day, according to Ofcom.

Now Disney has announced it’s planning to dive into the on-demand streaming sector with the dual launch of a films and sports set-up.

The launch of these two services, which are planned for 2019, will see Disney and Pixar remove all content from Netflix and shift its distribution strategy towards a direct to consumer model.

Subscribers to Disney’s new entertainment streaming service will be able to watch animated and live-action films, including the forthcoming sequel to the hit Frozen, Toy Story 4 and a live-action version of The Lion King. Disney will also invest in original films, TV series and short-form video exclusively for the service, which will launch in the US before expanding to other countries.

Although children aren’t responsible for today’s household decisions, including which OTT streaming service to subscribe to, they are tomorrow’s young adults and currently influence parental purchases believed to total over $130bn a year.

Broadcasters understand the importance of subscriber loyalty among this age demographic and if they can capture younger eyeballs now, they’ll also ring-fence a captive audience for pyjamas, lunchboxes, bed linen, clothing, action figures, plus endless other connotations of their favourite screen characters for many years to come.

Kate Durling is director of production at  Havas Sports & Entertainment

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