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Playing to the interests of children

last updated 27 February 2017

Watching content on digital platforms is slowly gaining popularity among kids. The question is: how to best keep their attention and with what kind of content?

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Children are increasingly consuming content on the Internet compared to television. 

By Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop

With the proliferation of technology, new platforms to consume media content and new media formats have sprung up over the years – and younger viewers are catching on. From dedicated children channels to YouTube’s child-friendly version, YouTube Kids, various outlets are addressing the rising demand of this young demographic.

According to a recent report by children’s digital media platform SuperAwesome, more kids in ASEAN and Australia watch Internet clips in their spare time than movies or use social media. The 2nd Annual Kids Digital Insights for ASEAN & Australia report revealed that children in the region, aged six to 14, are shifting their attention from traditional long-form content to short-form digital videos. Sixty-five per cent of kids are now watching online clips in their spare time, compared to 61 per cent in 2015. However, despite the rising popularity of digital platforms, TV still remains the top media activity for kids in the region – 81 per cent of children watch TV on a daily basis, with an average time spent of 2.5 hours a day.

So what are some of the ways to reach the hearts of youngsters and how can content providers satisfy the appetites of this younger audience? IMpact explores four key takeaways on children’s content from some of the panel discussions during the Singapore Media Festival last December.

While digital media continues to rise, it’s not the end of TV

According to the SuperAwesome survey, given the choice of source, 78 per cent of Singaporean kids would rather use the Internet than watch TV (a pattern repeated throughout most of Asia ­– reaching 98 per cent in Thailand). Preference for short-form media has grown from 61 per cent in 2015 to 65 per cent in 2016, as more children in Asia now watch online clips in their spare time. In Singapore, 78 per cent of children prefer to watch their favourite content on the Internet than on TV, a noted increase on the 73 per cent reported in the previous annual survey and a pattern repeated throughout Asia. Overall in the region, the preference for digital over television jumped from 66 per cent in 2015 to 77 per cent the following year.

Interestingly, the survey also showed that the most popular digital content shows, such as Tom and Jerry, Doraemon and Spongebob Squarepants, in general have their roots in TV, though top shows differ by country. Therefore, digital and TV content are feeding, not competing, off each other. Content providers thus need to understand how their audiences are engaging with both forms of medium.

Don’t ignore your own backyard

According to Seung Huyh Oh, Chief Creative Officer of MNC Animation, there is still a mindset in the region that finding success requires selling to a western market or co-producing with them. “However, we have a big market in Asia and I believe that even if we just focus on the Asian market, we can recoup 100 per cent of our investment,” he told the Asian Television Forum in Singapore last December. Citing Indonesia as an example, he noted that Indonesia alone is – with its 262 million population, about half of which is under 30 – a great market for developers focused on creating content for kids. Oh also argued that there should be more Asian co-productions to represent the variety of local cultures, and appeal to Asian children and their parents alike.

It’s more than just a cartoon

The growth of children’s online viewing on platforms such as YouTube shows a shift from traditional cartoon animations to a wider variety of content, such as children’s dramas. One example is a live action co-production series, Baby on the Way, about young kids having to deal with the arrival of sibling, produced by Educational Broadcasting System (EBS), a Korean children education broadcaster. Dr Hyunsook Chung, Senior Executive Producer at EBS, explained that children’s content needs to be deeply rooted in their environment and culture to help them develop a better sense of awareness. “I’m talking about balance for children’s development … They should know who they are, where they are and understand their reality,” she said.

Let the kingmakers play

Content may be king, but the audience are very much the kingmakers. Therefore, understanding and engaging with audiences is key for providers, who might, in the past, have relied solely on their market power and distribution network.

“Now the audience has to be listened to more than ever,” noted Adam Schoff, VP Brand Strategy, Dubit — Asia Pacific, adding that the ability to let the audience shape the narrative for brands is also critical. “If you think about the brands that have been successful recently, often they are the ones that have provided as much access as possible to their audience, allowing their audience to engage and drive the narrative, and allowing the audience to utilise their IP to create their own content.”

Alice Qiu, Head of Asia for Brand Strategy at d-rights Inc, known for their Beyblade series and toys, said letting kids customise their experience with a brand’s offering could be key to success for companies. “(Whether) it is the real world or the virtual world, kids are very keen on customising their experiences.”

The next Asian TV Forum and Market will take place from 28 Nov – 1 Dec in Singapore as part of the Singapore Media Festival 2017.

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