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‘At the heart of everything will always be good content’

Informa Markets’ Anna Knight, ViacomCBS’ Mark Kingston, Gary Pope from Kids Industries and WildBrain Spark’s Jon Gisby discuss the evolution of kids’ content in live webinar.

Children may have more ability to view content than ever before, but at the heart will always be strong storytelling which they can build an emotional connection with, whatever the platform.

This was a key view to come out of the first in a new series of live webinars being hosted by Informa Markets and License Global yesterday (18 March).

Led by Anna Knight, vp of Informa Markets’ Licensing Group, Jon Gisby, evp and md at WildBrain Spark, Mark Kingston, svp international consumer products for ViacomCBS and Gary Pope, co-founder of Kids Industries shared their views on how the way children consume content has changed, whether these changes will be here to stay once the pandemic ends and what this ultimately means for consumer products during the hour-long webinar, entitled Changing the channel: the evolution of kids content.

Gary Pope explained that the current generation of kids are the most vocal generation seen to date and feel more empowered than ever. “They are the most activist and brands have been responding to this in interesting ways,” he noted. “I’d almost suggest that media is now more participated in than consumed in a passive way. This started with unboxers and YouTube, then there was Minecraft and Twitch, and now we have Anything World [a platform that allows children to play with any object they can imagine using the power of their voice]… I think in the next 18 months, we will see a markedly different landscape for children’s media consumption.”

"In some ways childhood hasn't changed, but in some it's the most complicated time to be a child" said Gary Pope, co-founder of Kids Industries.
"In some ways childhood hasn't changed, but in some it's the most complicated time to be a child" said Gary Pope, co-founder of Kids Industries.

WildBrain Spark’s Jon Gisby suggested that, this time last year, plenty of kids were consuming content in the same way as now.

“The balance of linear, streaming and AVOD platfroms… that eco system has been there for the best part of ten years off and on,” he said. “What’s shifted is the relative balance and importance of the platforms. There has been an enormous increase in viewing on YouTube, for example.

“There’s also been a shift in device – kids increasingly have access to their own device, which means they are in control of the content. Equally, there has been a shift of viewing from devices back to the big screen and connected TVs. The growth was already there, but has been massively accelerated. My personal theory is that people had time to figure out how the kit worked!”

Jon continued: “That in turn, turns into co-viewing – premium content on the big screen with the family… that’s called TV and has always been there. Nothing ever dies, it just takes a new shape.”

Children are leading indicators when it comes to media consumption, Jon added: “We’ve grown up where we link a device to a particular piece of content and I don’t think they make that distinction. I think that will increasingly be the case – it’s that 360 view of a brand.”

Content needs to build an emotional connection with viewers, so it can be taken from the screen to physical products, said ViacomCBS' Mark Kingston.
Content needs to build an emotional connection with viewers, so it can be taken from the screen to physical products, said ViacomCBS' Mark Kingston.

Asked how the more ‘traditional’ ways of viewing fit into the new landscape, ViacomCBS’s Mark Kingston asserted that “at the heart of everything will always be content”.

“There’s never been a better time to be a content creator; there are so many opportunities to get content out there,” he commented. “Traditional platforms will probably become stronger – cinematic and live experiences will become bolder. We’re a social species and there is a lot of pent up demand. At the heart will always be really strong storytelling where consumers can build an emotional connection which can be taken off the screen and into physical products, and for a long time, too.”

The explosion of content is also giving companies such as ViacomCBS even more opportunity to connect with audiences, allowing them to immerse themselves in the IP and build meaningful and long-term emotional connections, Mark added.

When it comes to retail, they need to work out how to curate all these new opportunities.

“Roll the clock back ten years and content probably came from four different sources – toy, publishing, TV and movies – now you can roll into that gaming, influencers, etc,” said Mark. “Fundamentally, I still come back to that emotional connection with the audience… that awareness of your IP and the desire from audiences to live and embrace it beyond the screen.”

Notably, Gary added that ‘what’s your YouTube strategy?’ is the second most asked question he hears from retail now [after ‘who’s your toy partner?’].

Asked if the new landscape would lead to the death of traditional TV, Jon said: “Traditional TV is a shared experience, an appointment to view and none of that is going away. But some things are being done better by other platforms – we’re all trying to figure out how all the different platforms will work alongside each other.

“It’s perfectly possible to build a brand on linear or on AVOD. Where the magic happens is where a brand is big enough to work across all three.”

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