YouTube Kids: Redefining the Landscape of Children’s Entertainment
By Subrat Kar, CEO of Vidooly
YouTube is the new children’s TV – that’s what a story in The Guardian proclaimed in November 2015. Well, it is absolutely true. YouTube has never officially announced how much of its billion-strong user base is made up of children, but family and children-related videos make up a huge portion of the content hosted on its platform.
Just sample these numbers –
- Kids and education channels on YouTube have over 400 million subscribers.
- Little Baby Bum, the most popular kids channel on YouTube, adds more than 200,000 subscribers and 400 million video views every month.
- The top 20 kids channels on YouTube generated over 5.2 billion views in Oct. 2015 alone.
To cater to such a huge demand, YouTube released a dedicated app for children in 2015 called YouTube Kids that has already been downloaded more than eight million times. Looking at these staggering numbers, it is no wonder The Guardian called it the new children’s TV.
YouTube Kids – success or failure?
Critics might say that YouTube Kids was an example of the platform identifying children as its next target audience. However, in reality, YouTube was just catching up to the behavior of children who had already become one of the major audience segments on the platform.
To give credit where it’s due, YouTube did a lot of research and consulting before launching the app. It wanted to ensure that children are not exposed to inappropriate content and advertisements on its platform. It reached out to children’s advocacy groups such as the Family Online Safety Institute and The Internet Keep Safe Coalition prior to launch. However, like any online business, it has to run advertisements to keep itself afloat – ads targeted specifically at kids – although the ads undergo a rigorous review before being approved for the app.
While YouTube has not disclosed the revenue it has earned through YouTube Kids, if you look at the overall download numbers and review ratings in app stores, you can say that the platform has been a success. However, it has dealt with quite a few controversial, as well.
Controversies and criticisms
Advertising: Ads on YouTube Kids have been controversial in the U.S., where several consumer groups have complained to Federal Trade Commission, asking it to investigate the app. The complaints were less about the paid ads that run in between videos, and more to do with videos that advertise their products in the guise of entertainment.
For instance, unboxing videos in which toys are opened and reviewed at length are extremely popular on YouTube, where there are several channels like Blu Toys and FunToyzCollector dedicated to the genre with millions of subscribers. Whether the owners of such channels are paid by the toy companies to advertise their product is a question that YouTube might find difficult to answer and track. Whatever the case may be, parents definitely want YouTube kids not to promote such channels ahead of the ones that carry actual educational content.
Digital babysitter. That’s the term that regularly pops up as a criticism when people talk about YouTube and kids in the same sentence. It is actually a criticism of the parents who let their kids sit in the corner of a room with their smartphones, watching videos on YouTube.
Online behavior tracking: The laws that regulate this around the world vary, but, almost everywhere, tracking the online behavior of kids raises warning bells. That’s why YouTube was very particular about making the kids app a “signed-out” experience. One does not have to create an account in the app and very limited behavior – like watch history – is tracked by it.
Different types of kids channels
YouTube hosts a wide variety of video content around kids’ interests. There are toy unboxing channels, surprise eggs channels, nursery rhymes channels, educational channels, DIY channels, Minecraft channels and many more. Each of these subgenres have superstars of their own.
Unboxing channels: Who would’ve thought that unpackaging toys can help you earn in millions. Channels such as DisneyCollectorBR and Blu toys have millions of subscribers who just love watching them unpack toys. Strangely enough, the origin of unboxing channels lies in the gadget and fashion world. It started with vloggers unboxing gaming consoles, clothing and other paraphernalia, so that people could get a preview of what they were buying.
Surprise eggs channels: These are videos of people unwrapping Kinder Surprise Eggs. For the uninitiated, Kinder Eggs are hollow chocolate eggs that contain a toy inside them. This trend has caught on really big recently. (The keywords “surprise eggs” and “Kinder Eggs” were searched more than 100,000 times in the last month alone.) Collectively, they have been responsible for oversix billion views to date.
Nursery Rhymes channels: Channels that upload animated nursery rhymes is another popular draw on YouTube. Just to give you a sense of how big these channels are, Disney’s official video for “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen” has over 500 million views and a video for the song “Wheels on the Bus” on the nursery rhyme channel Little Baby Bum has over a billion. Some of the other popular channels in this sub-genre are Hooplakidz, ChuChu TV, Mother Goose Club and Videogyan.
Educational channels: There are many YouTube channels that upload videos and tutorials that can help kids learn something new in a fun and entertaining way. These channels are not just limited to kids, but also have a sizeable following of adults. VSauce, Matthew Santoro, SciShow and Khan Academy are some of the biggest names in this sub-genre.
Minecraft channels: This sub-genre can be baffling for most parents. They usually don’t understand why kids would want to watch someone else play Minecraft rather than play the game themselves. However, there are many kid-friendly Minecraft channels that help build creativity and innovation. There are tutorials (with ideas to create new things inside the world of Minecraft), “let’s play” videos (footage of people playing the game), challenges (newer gameplay ideas), mod showcases (cool things that kids can download to modify their Minecraft worlds) and a lot more. Some of the popular channels in this sub-genre are Yogscast, SkyDoesMinecraft and Stampylonghead.
The India connection
Surprisingly, India is one of the biggest markets for kids entertainment on YouTube. Out of the 150-plus billion views for kids-related videos on YouTube, approximately 13 billion come from in India. Given the pace at which internet penetration has increased in India in the recent past, this number is set to explode in 2016.
Subrat Kar is the co-founder and CEO of Vidooly, a YouTube marketing and analytics software product for content creators, multi-channel networks and brands that helps to grow their online video businesses organically. He can be reached out at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @subratkar
Tags: Subrat Kar, Vidooly, youtube, YouTube Kids