YouTube has officially announced its new free YouTube Kids app, a dedicated space for kids and families to watch age appropriate content, available on Android and iOS. The app puts even more pressure on kids-oriented cable TV networks, whose audiences were already being decimated by OTT options like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
YouTube Kids creates a safe, accessible, organized space for young kids. The content is organized into four categories, Shows, Music, Learning and Explore. Content is licensed from Dreamworks TV, Hit Entertainment, Jim Henson TV, Mother Goose Club and National Geographic Kids. Popular shows included are "Fraggle Rock," "Reading Rainbow," "Sesame Street," "Talking Tom and Friends" and "Thomas the Tank Engine."
There is also content for older kids such as the Vlogbrothers and Stampylonghead. The app also includes parental controls, such as a timer to limit watch time, an audio on/off toggle and a search on/off toggle. YouTube did not say whether the app will include ads, but others have reported it will include pre-screened kids appropriate ads.
Even before the kids app, YouTube was already drawing lots of views for kid-focused programming. A cursory search in YouTube for Thomas the Tank Engine reveals a number of videos with view counts in the millions. The new standalone, targeted app means that YouTube will certainly gain more viewership among kids and further fuel a shift to on-demand viewing. At Kidscreen Summit this morning, YouTube's head of family and learning Malik Ducard said that 75% of kids 0-8 years-old have access to a mobile device, a stunning figure.
All of this is more bad news for kids-oriented cable TV networks, whose ratings are being hurt badly by OTT options. The combination of OTT's better user experience, content selection and attractive pricing, coupled with the proliferation of connected and mobile devices has led to a huge shift in kids' behaviors. Accelerating their own decline, kids TV networks (and studios) have licensed popular titles to OTT providers, thus strengthening their experience/value.
Kids are just one part of the larger landscape of viewers' changing TV behaviors and expectations playing out. But the younger that kids are in discovering on-demand apps like YouTube's and others, the less likely they'll be to ever revert to linear-style viewing. YouTube's app creates further momentum for the inexorable shift away from the traditional linear model.