With Disney’s $52 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox, the world’s greatest children’s entertainment behemoth now gets the foundation for distribution platforms to match.
In other words: The kids content steaming wars are on. And — this should go without saying — where there are kids’ attention spans, there’s a ton of money to be made.
While talk of cord-cutter culture is usually centered around millennials, it’s worth remembering that they’re not all young adults living in big cities with roommates, Slack rooms, group chats, and haute weed habits. Plenty of them have small, demanding, freeloading roommates with sugar habits. You may know them as “children.”
And children are very, very valuable customers.
The signs have been there, quietly in the background.
HBO bought Sesame Street in 2015.
Hulu’s got exclusive streaming rights to Curious George and Doc McStuffins (which you can also stream if you create an account on PBS Kids).
Netflix has Disney’s Moana, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, Fantasia, and Mulan, plus Sing, Zootopia, Minions and Kung Fu Panda.
Amazon Prime has Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and a ton of Thomas the Tank Engine.
And no streaming service has Frozen because god is dead (or merciful, depending on your perspective).
This stockpiling is intentional and canny. When Game of Thrones ends, the kids of HBO Now subscribers will still have every single episode of Sesame Street on demand, which, at $15 a month, is a steal. The people who used to spend Friday nights watching House of Cards marathons will seamlessly transition into family movie nights instead, with no interruption in monthly payments to Netflix.
There’s another factor that might not mean much to adults, but is huge to parents: No ads.
The upside here is huge. For adults, ads are an annoyance and a time suck. For kids, they can be insidious. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children younger than 8 are “are cognitively and psychologically defenseless against advertising.” The FTC considered banning advertising to children younger than 6 altogether in the late 1970s, but ended up deciding that’d be an impractical mess.
As Youtube’s learning, relying on algorithmic filters to protect kids doesn’t work out well.
Streaming sidesteps the whole thing. For many parents, it is a godsend to let a kid knock out a random episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood while knowing that they won’t be seeing ads for junk food, a toy, or an annoying mobile game to play on your phone.
And it goes without saying, but streaming services provide safer media environments than a traditional TV setup (or especially, a phone). As Youtube’s learning, relying on algorithmic filters to protect kids doesn’t work out well. And kids don’t need an endless variety — most of them just want to watch the same things over and over again. Case in point: The collective parental freakout when Disney announced that it was pulling its movies from Netflix.
Ok but when is Disney starting their streaming service bc I need advanced notice when they pull Moana, Rogue One, and Beauty & the Beast from Netflix
— kels (@_fancypockets) October 1, 2017
Those are the tweets of parents who will almost definitely shell out for Disney’s planned streaming service.
If Disney makes even a 1/2 cent every time Moana streams on Netflix, my family has contributed enough to build another Disney Land.
— Greg Schrage (@gschrage) September 5, 2017
Disney’s always been a company that understands the importance of exclusivity. It’s why they left some of their movies in the “vault” for years, building up anticipation for each new re-release. And it’s a good bet that they’ll play that card on their streaming service, too, if its Netflix exodus is any indication.
As the overall landscape of kids content streaming fractures, you’ll likely see more conflicts about what movies and shows can be streamed on which platforms. And if Disney refuses to let anything play outside of their walled garden, they’ll need a price low enough to be attractive to parents who probably also pay for Netflix, Hulu or Prime.
What’s all that mean for you?
Well, for starters, you could see more series getting bought wholesale, a la Sesame Street. Or more studios trying to set up streaming businesses. Millennials are supposedly desperate to be entertained, but take it from one who’s a parent: You have no idea how far we’ll go to get 15 minutes to ourselves. And if one thing’s clear, it’s that these companies know that too.