New-gen kids prefer OTT platforms to kids’ TV channels

Why is Disney gradually pulling off all its kids’ channels from cable networks in UK, Singapore

KOLKATA: Back in the ’90s or early 2000s, kids had control over TV remotes during their vacation. Many kids would not have finished their meals without Mickey Mouse or Tom and Jerry on the screen which later became Pokemon and The Mask as well. With getting older, the names changed to Hannah Montana, That’s So Raven or High School Musical. Television occupied the childhood years of Gen Y and early Gen Z with some remembering their parents disconnecting cable just before board exams. The unfortunate Covid2019 pandemic has given an extended holiday to kids of today.   

We all say major childhood habits grow into a lifelong trait. In that way, the future of linear television seems bleak as today’s kids are glued to video-on-demand services through smartphones, tablets and connected devices. Disney, the network which has amused several generations of kids has decided to shut three of its channels in the UK this fall. 

Its new streaming service Disney+ will be home to content from Disney Channel, DisneyXD and Disney Junior from 1 October. Not only Europe, Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, and Go Disney have been removed from Singapore’s Starhub and Singtel network. Although Disney+ is not available in Singapore yet, experts have speculated that it might soon enter the market.

Why is Disney pulling off its kids’ channels from linear TV while its other channels still remain on? A network which has achieved over 50 million subscribers for its new streaming service in six months, is definitely looking at the long term game. A PWC data from 2019 showed that children between the ages of two and 11 watch 35 per cent fewer hours of live and time-shifted TV than they did in 2014; teenage viewing fell faster and was down almost 50 per cent over the same period. The statistics speak for Disney’s move to ditch traditional TV. It might be pulling off the oxygen supply via TV but it is injecting streaming in their blood.

The change might be slower in India and as experts say linear TV and OTT will co-exist at least in the near future. If we look at BARC-Nielsen week 20 data, the kids genre has grown to nine per cent compared to pre-Covid2019 period. Compared to other genres, the growth is slower despite the surge in viewership in lockdown. Moreover, the growth is not even expected to translate into ad revenue. Hence, all the major networks in the country will try to monetise the same on their OTT platforms. 

ZEE5 launched its kids’ section during the lockdown where all content from the network will be promoted. Viacom18 has already charted its future in Voot Select. SonyYAY has also been promoting its content on SonyLIV. Netflix revealed its ambitious plan for the segment earlier after churning out Mighty Little Bheem. Amazon Prime Video made its kids and family content free when lockdown started. Broadcasters are left with no option but to use digital platforms to get money out of a slowly dying genre on TV, even in India.

Even during the countrywide shelter-at-home phase, co-viewing got a boost but for OTTs via connected devices or smart TVs. Kids are not only getting OTTs as their babysitters but also an activity to do with parents. As they grow, when they will look back at these days, a generation will remember Disney+, Netflix, Amazon as Gen Y did Cartoon Network, Nick and Disney Channel. 

However, Indian kids are still enjoying traditional TV as BARC data shows that the kid's genre viewership has grown by 53 per in lockdown compared to the pre-Covid2019 period . 

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