Albie Hecht is Chief Content Officer at pocket.watch where he is responsible for overseeing content and character development of the brand’s slate of content and franchised properties. Prior to joining pocket.watch, Hecht was President of Nickelodeon Entertainment, where he oversaw the development of hit shows like “SpongeBob Squarepants,” “Dora the Explorer,” “Blue’s Clues,” and “All That.” He is also responsible for fan favorites like the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards, which he co-created and produced and Academy Award and Emmy winning films including, “War/Dance” and “Inocente” under his nonprofit organization Shine Global.
In this week’s ‘5 questions,’ Hecht discusses the evolution of content development since his time at Nickelodeon and how pocket.watch is carving out a sustainable owned and operated business despite competing against giants like YouTube and Netflix.
Videoink: How has content development changed since your time at Nickelodeon?
Albie Hecht: I’ve always looked at audience and talent as key drivers of successful content creation. When you look at the changes in the audience today – Kids going mobile with 98% of kids 8 and under living in a home with a mobile device – it creates a different viewing dynamic. Mobile is often more of a personal activity vs. a group activity so there are more opportunities for successful niche programming that super-serves kids based on specific, personal interests. That’s why you see such a decrease in the ratings for the major kid’s channels – broad audiences are tough to reach.
So, at PW we’ve focused on what we call “Character Based Development” because character transcends platform and they are your best shot at transmedia and mobile success.
We’ve also focused on a new generation of talent. Ones that have grown up in mobile and digital and are for 2-14 year olds more famous than traditional celebrities and stars. At pocket.watch we’ve committed to the biggest and best and have already partnered with YouTube superstars like Ryan of Ryan Toys Review, EvanTubeHD, HobbyKidsTV, and Captain Sparklez. By creating new original longer form content with these stars we believe we can create the new franchises for tomorrow.
With pocket.watch being an online platform, you must be dealing with more data than you ever encountered at Nick. How has this helped or hurt the development of content and what metrics do you see as most important when fine tuning your shows?
Pocket.watch goes beyond online. We’re a new kids and family media company and that means bringing our content, stars, characters and brand experiences to all the places where kids are, including traditional platforms like linear television, toys, apparel, or live events. In fact, we’ve already announced the development of our own branded book publishing imprint with Simon and Schuster Spotlight. Think of us as a virtual entertainment HQ for kids, going everywhere they are and celebrating everything they love.
Our online platforms however give us a distinct advantage over traditional content creators and channels. Our data can give us an understanding of where we might be gaining or losing audience, and which personalities, characters or other topics and story elements are resonating or not. That gives us a great direction to iterate the further development of our characters and IP.
Data can also be a powerful proving ground – When we can demonstrate to a distribution partner that an IP that is based on a talent like Ryan’sToysReview already has 1 billion views a month – they can trust that it already has the built-in appeal of a best-selling book or comic.
But in the end, content creation is more cooking than science right? So, we also have to have a strong commercial gut and creative vision for a project. That’s where our experience and partnership with proven hit makers like Butch Hartman and Kenan Thompson come into play.
What is the most challenging aspect of creating content in a digital, mobile-first world and how has pocket.watch reacted to it?
Mobile demands content that can work anytime, anywhere and on demand.
In order to create that kind of content, we believe it is no longer viable to have just traditional or just digital skills and expertise. You need both as table stakes for creating a new kid’s media brand. So, when you look across our team, you see high-achieving team with a diverse array of talents and backgrounds in both traditional and digital media. And that includes not only our executive ranks, but our investors AND our development slate.
And our strategy gives us a number of advantages over the incumbents. While they are still trying to drive people to watch a “channel” at a “tune in time,” we are building enormous brand and reach for pocket.watch as a virtual entertainment HQ for kids across all platforms.
With YouTube kids, Amazon and Netflix, how is pocket.watch carving out a sustainable owned and operated business?
There are three legs driving our value and business. One is our owned and operated YouTube channels that are created a distinct brand identity and our own stars. Two is our creator partners, including those from the world’s most popular YouTube channel, Ryan Toys Review, that give us a reach of over 1.5 billion monthly views. This is a unique and incredibly valuable asset which we can leverage to promote a range of offerings in which pocket.watch has substantial ownership. And it gives us our own “Marvel Comics” of hit IP to extend into major franchises for film, TV, toys, games, books and live events. These creator partners are motivated to help because they’re part owners of the company. When we win, they win.
And lastly, we have developed a slate of character based original IP this year we will now bring to the marketplace as pocket.watch Studios properties. This will establish a library of hit IP.
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What new behavior are you seeing with how kids and families consume content?
One phenomenon we’re seeing now is an increase in kids watching videos and then being inspired by the content to put down the screen and do stuff. A lot of kids will watch a DIY video, then go get a family member to help them make the project as a family activity. Or they’ll watch a channel like EvanTubeHD, one of our creator partners, build with Legos, then go build with Legos themselves. Or they want to program robots or research a scientific phenomenon. Or go make videos themselves. Or maybe just play with real toys!
We see this as a very positive experience in kids’ lives, especially when they can be so tempted by these ever-present screens. And at pocket.watch we’re working to craft and weave various calls to action into our content to inspire kids to do more in the real world together with actual social settings.