2019: Five Things to Watch in Kids Media

David Kleeman
17
January
2019

At the end of 2018, we wrote about five trends or movements that Dubit had noticed in the previous year. Looking forward, here are five things we’re anticipating and watching in 2019. Interestingly, all of them relate back to the first – the rise of the “superfan.”

Serving Superfans

With so many generalist platforms to choose from, broad audiences have almost infinite “good enough” video and games. If you spread the cost across enough eyeballs, it doesn’t necessarily matter if the content makes them glaze over a little. For content providers, though, this is no longer an effective strategy because, with a little effort, consumers can find content that deeply interests, not simply occupies, them.

So, why not make it even simpler for superfans to find and revel in what they love? Give them everything they want in one place. For adults, look at NBC Universal’s reality-show service HayU or AMC Networks’ horror SVOD Shudder. Dubit is already working with kid-facing companies to explore single-brand content-on-demand apps, and we expect others in 2019.

As families begin having to choose among or pare proliferating subscriptions, cost won’t likely be the primary decision driver; it will be emotional connection. They’ll cut services their kids won’t yell about and pay a premium for ones that dig deep with engaging content, games, exclusives, and community.

New Platforms

Check the agendas and listen in the halls at recent children’s media conferences, and you’d hear a lot about chasing content development opportunities for the FAANGs – iOS Store and Google Play apps; series for Netflix and Amazon; strategies for exploiting YouTube; supporting communities on Facebook and Instagram.

Not every brand or idea will (or can) fit on these platforms, though. At Dubit, we often talk about the “squeezed middle” - smaller than the dominating mega-brands, but bigger than the highly-individualized long tail of “passion” brands, wanting to grow but maybe not able to break through to the FAANGs.

One instinct is to try to own everything - to build a unique production and distribution platform. It’s hard, though, to ask kids to give up their favorite spaces in favor of your new one. Instead, it usually makes more sense to take stock of your best assets and find a well-matched sustainable partner. A number of platforms have reached scale that can support brands, from promotion to being a content hub. This can be as small as an Insta frame or WhatsApp gif, or as big as a voice-assistant skill, branded Roblox game, or new Minecraft den.

5G

It’s the law: no trend article can be published without mentioning 5G. But it’s not misplaced.

In the kids’ space, 5G will turbocharge developments around gaming interactivity, play-on-the-go, and fan participation. The 2018 flash of HQ and phenomenon of Fortnite demonstrated that live, rapid participatory play can support a massive audience. Complaints in the comments confirmed that slow networks frustrate players. Lightning-fast, dependable wireless will enable young people to play and compete in innovative, emerging live events. It will let audiences be part of the eSports action, already a massive global market and looking to invite superfans even deeper into their world.

Look for traditional sports leagues and broadcasters, as well, to employ high-speed interaction as a way of connecting with the younger audiences that have drifted away.

Offline to Online

Early days crossover between online and offline worlds tended to start in digital and end with physical experiences or products (buying a toy or t-shirt from a favorite game or video).

Now, with so much digital content – overflowing app stores and video outlets – IP and platform owners need a new means for driving discovery. Digital advertising is cluttered and often ignored, but still expensive (and may be prohibited or restricted toward kids). Dubit Trends finds that good-old-TV advertising is still effective for promotion, but may not be enough.

Future growth may come from highly-visible offline experiences that drive people back toward the digital ones – the real world is pretty attractive for finding new fans or deepening existing connections. Consider branded family experiences or pop-up special content (AR is an especially promising medium for these – think Pokemon Go), or physical toys and games that are supplemented by online tutorials, hacks or added content.

Netflix Shifting

Our 2018-closing five things listed “Netflix Rising.” 2019 looks more like “Netflix Shifting.” Over the holidays, they generated significant social media buzz around two original offerings and one renewal.

For Bird Box, Netflix took the rare step of announcing how many accounts had viewed the film, sparking “FOMO-mentum” for those who hadn’t yet.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch piloted “choose your own adventure” interactivity for adult audiences, something Netflix had tested with its children’s shows.

The power of superfans reared its head again with Netflix’ $100 million, one-year renewal of Friends. The series hasn’t had new episodes since 2004 and has aired widely in linear syndication, but fan outcry compelled them to extend the rights.

Having built a near-ubiquitous video platform, Netflix now has to figure out how to sustain its position against an onslaught of competitors. Disney+ (“+” Marvel and Fox) launches in 2019 and AT&T will surely exploit its newly-acquired Time-Warner library. Volume of content is good but can’t be the only answer: as noted above, there are plenty of sources for deep wells of generalist content. Adding new user experiences, providing deep and exclusive content to superfans, and leveraging social media all contribute to making a platform a must-have, not a nice-to-have.

Do You See What We See?

These are five of our hot spots for 2019, drawn from a combination of Dubit Trends global data, what companies ask us for, and listening carefully (not just speaking!) at the conferences Dubit attends worldwide. We can’t be everywhere, though, and we’re always eager to hear what you see. Drop me a line – david.kleeman@dubitlimited.com – with your forecasts for 2019 and keep an eye out for a future blog with insights from our own “superfans.”

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