Roku Channel Adds Kids Destination, Joining Family Streaming Derby

Photo courtesy of Roku

The Roku Channel, a two-year-old aggregator of 35 free, live channels and 40 subscription services, has become the latest streaming entity to offer a dedicated selection of kids and family content.

The move comes on the heels of Roku’s report of strong financial and operating results in the second quarter. The streaming giant posted a 72% jump in total hours viewed, to 9.4 billion, across 30.5 million user accounts. That scale gives the company a sizable audience to direct toward the Roku Channel, which has become one the five most-watched channels via Roku since its launch two years ago.

Unlike in the linear-only days, when a small handful of networks dominated the kid space for decades, the streaming era has created more of a free-for-all, especially given younger viewers’ embrace of technology. CBS All Access this month announced the addition of kids and family programming, a move that will gain momentum once Viacom’s Nickelodeon is added to the mix in the companies’ forthcoming merger. Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video have also activated major efforts to attract young viewers and families in recent years. And Disney, of course, will launch its family-friendly Disney+ service on November 12.

Roku’s “Kids & Family” goes live today on Roku connected devices, online and via certain Samsung smart TVs. It will not feature any content from Disney or Netflix at launch, but subscription offerings include HBO, Starz, Noggin, Blue Ant Media’s ZooMoo, CONtv, Dove Channel, Hopster and Up Faith and Family. Through those platforms, viewers can watch top draws like Bubble Guppies, Dora the Explorer, PAW Patrol, Peppa Pig. About 7,000 movies, spanning franchises like Care Bears, The Cat in the Hat, Leapfrog, My Little Pony and Thomas & Friends, will be delivered by the likes of Hasbro’s All Spark, DHX Media, Happy Kids TV, Lionsgate and Mattel.

As was the case in the broader streaming landscape when the Roku Channel launched two years ago, the family space has “lots of great content, but it’s dispersed across a range of both paid and free apps,” Roku VP of content Rob Holmes told Deadline in an interview. “We wanted to bring all of that content together in a single destination.”

Live, linear services will be included from Moonbug, pocket.watch and partners powered by Xumo including, Ameba, BatteryPop, KidGenius. Five exclusive, 22-minute episodes of Ryan’s World, created by pocket.watch, will be available directly on the Roku Channel.
About 80% of programming recommendations across Roku Channel are now made through machine learning, from zero two years ago, Holmes estimated. While automation can improve viewer discovery and increase engagement (and therefore opportunities for advertisers and subscription purveyors), Holmes stressed that Kids & Family prioritizes safety. Content in this new corner of Roku Channel, he said, is managed by a human editorial team. YouTube recently got scorched by the public and faced advertiser backlash after inappropriate ads and comments have been found in its kids section. On a similar note, parental controls are now available in the Roku Channel for the first time.
Driving the overall initiative, Holmes said, is the notion that individual programs and shows can increasingly get traction with viewers when featured in ways that frees them from traditional scheduling and distribution constraints.
“Kids just want the characters that they want,” Holmes said. “They have no particular association” with where the characters originate. Children tend to say, “‘I want Pikachu‘ and ‘I want PAW Patrol,‘” he added. “Who the linear network or studio behind that is is not relevant to them.”

This article was printed from https://deadline.com/2019/08/roku-channel-adds-kids-family-destination-paw-patrol-1202669580/