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Variety: Children’s Content Creators Becoming Industry Heavyweights

Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash

Variety: Children’s Content Creators Becoming Industry Heavyweights

By Movieguide® Staff

Major streamers are throwing their money behind people who create children’s content, understanding what Movieguide® has preached for years: Family-friendly entertainment makes the big bucks.

In an article for Variety, Brian Steinberg and Elaine Low write that children’s television is now the most heated front in the streaming wars.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that kids drive a big amount of the minutes watched on streaming services,” says Brian Robbins, president of ViacomCBS’ Nickelodeon. The children’s network is expected to make a significant contribution to its parent company’s soon-to-debut streaming hub, Paramount Plus. “You know as a parent that you’ll go without eating before you take something away from your child that they like. Kids content is an amazing retention tool.”

Steinberg and Low write:

It’s a child, or millions of them, then, that will help steer what is projected to be billions of dollars to streaming outlets, both the ones that have led the charge, like Netflix, YouTube or Hulu, and a new set of challengers from traditional media companies like WarnerMedia, ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal. There are also a bevy of child-focused services — from PBS Kids to Vooks, a company that creates ad-free animated storybooks…. A survey of 3,000 U.S. adults conducted in the fall by nScreenMedia, a broadband consultancy, found that 75% of parents watch video with their children several times a week or more. Two-thirds of respondents indicated they expect time spent with kids watching TV and movies to stay the same or increase once the pandemic ends.

With that attention comes money. Consumers are projected to spend $41 billion on streaming video in 2021, according to the Consumer Technology Assn., an industry trade organization; that represents a 15% jump over spending last year. Access to exclusive content and canceling traditional video service are two factors behind the rise, according to the group. And every kids TV executive knows that a successful character or concept can also drive millions of dollars’ worth in dolls, T-shirts, books and other consumer products.

What Variety is reporting is precisely what Movieguide® publisher Dr. Ted Baehr began to preach decades ago: Content with faith and family values outperform their gratuitous counterparts.

Since the first Movieguide® Awards Gala in 1988 and Dr. Baehr’s Annual Report to the Entertainment Industry in 1993, the number of family movies has more than doubled and the number of movies with positive Christian content has nearly quadrupled, 350 percent. Also, movies with positive Christian content have become vastly more popular among average moviegoers, earning three to six times or more as much money as movies with Non-Christian content and movies with explicit sex, nudity, violence, and foul language. Furthermore, the number of regular network television programs with positive Christian references has increased from 1 to 10 or more.

Many studio executives and entertainers are getting the message. More good movies are being made each year. Hollywood is being redeemed.

Now, the message seems to be reaching the ears of streaming services, as well.

As Variety reports:

The race is on to strike a connection with young consumers before they drift to another media window. “The interesting thing about being in a children’s entertainment division is you’re basically kind of the canary in a coal mine,” says Jennifer Dodge, president of Spin Master Entertainment, the company behind “Paw Patrol” and other properties. “We have all seen the transformation happening over the last several years from a linear programing experience to almost an on-demand scenario for most families and children.” …

No one is giving up on original concepts, but the scramble for familiar content is intense. The streaming giants love known commodities because they can help deliver families and children with a minimum of marketing; the traditional media companies embrace the properties because they control the rights to so many of them — to a degree that their digital competitors cannot duplicate.

Properties like Bugs Bunny and the Hanna-Barbera library are “the gift that keeps on giving,” says Tom Ascheim, president of Warner Bros.’ global kids, young adults and classics businesses. “It’s one that will be an advantage for a very long time.” One Warner project, “Batwheels,” which centers on a group of crime-fighting vehicles, represents “the earliest entry point for a young consumer with the Batman franchise,” he says, and will help Warner make a new push for preschool audiences.

However, just because a program is marketed for families does not mean it is appropriate for children. Parents must teach their children media discernment so the family can process the information presented to them in the form of entertainment.

“Beyond asking the right questions to help your children develop discernment about the mass media of entertainment, you need to understand the perspectives or methods of evaluative media viewing and listening that your children possess. You will then be able to guide them through the different levels of critical viewing,” Dr. Baehr writes in The Culture-Wise Family.

He continues:

We all thought as children once, but as you move through stages of cognitive development, it can be hard to remember what it was like to think like a 2-year-old, a 5-year-old or an 8-year-old. Yet, it’s common, as an adult, to look back on teenage years and think how silly you were then.

Our perspectives shape the way we look at and understand a media product. By viewing the media through these various perspectives or filters, we’re better able to comprehend and analyze its message and how the message influences those who have a different perspective.

Our children continue to develop different perspectives of critical viewing that reflect their cognitive levels as they grow and mature. A young child in the imagination stage of cognitive development perceives and extracts a different message from mass media than older children in the concrete stage and even teenagers growing into adulthood.

Try to picture what they’re seeing through their eyes at the various cognitive levels and introduce them to other perspectives appropriate to each child’s cognitive level. You can use these methods of critical viewing with your children to understand how they examine media messages and teach them to dissect the message. This is an opportunity for you and your children to better understand the workings of the mass media of entertainment together.

However, you probably realize, that some children develop cognitively sooner and some later than the norm. Also, it could be said humorously that some adults never developed beyond an immature stage of cognitive development. Also, as the Scarecrow replies to Dorothy in THE WIZARD OF OZ when she asks him how can a scarecrow without brains be able to talk, “Some people with no brains do an awful lot of talking!”

As streaming execs make children’s content creators industry heavyweights, the creators would do well to remember that wholesome content is what appeals to the masses. Biblical values such as forgiveness, compassion, kindness to strangers, honoring your parents, and sharing with others are timeless lessons that all children can appreciate.

For wholesome content your family can trust, check out Movieguide®’s Kids Corner.