By now, we all know that Millennial Kids are using non-linear platforms (YouTube, SVOD, gaming apps) more than any other age group. We also know that this generation is watching short-form content in a way their predecessors had never experienced.
On-demand, short-form… this all means a shorter attention span and therefore, changing tastes in terms of preferred storylines. Looking at the US television market, most recent kids’ comedies share a frantic, disjointed, ADD-type of approach to stories (Breadwinners on Nickelodeon, Adventure Time on Cartoon Network and Disney’s Phineas and Ferb are but a few current examples of this increase in story pace, and on the emphasis on random humor vs. more traditional, “linear” storytelling).
However, aren’t we, as an industry, missing the point of a deeper change in children’s tastes brought about by Youtube, Vine, and the “maker generation”? What these platforms have in common is not just low attention span. It’s authenticity. A far cry from high-budget, highly-scripted television, digital players attract and retain today’s kids thanks to the raw honesty celebrated by today’s user generated content despite (and not because of) the low production value of these shorts. Just look at PewDiePie on Youtube, the now-famous Kinder Eggs unboxing tutorials or even the user-generated Lego shorts. These shorts are dirt cheap, highly succesful, and disarmingly authentic. So, how do we apply this to television and long-form content?
As a TV producer, this question fascinates me. I truly believe there is a new world of stories we can tell in linear form if we learn to make our high-cost narratives more authentic and in tune with the times. This is something we are already seeing in the tone of the best British animated series (Peppa Pig) and also in Israeli live action shows for kids and tweens. They share a raw, honest feel we haven’t seen much of yet in the rest of the world.
In my view, 2015’s number one challenge for Kids TV will be for us, as an industry, to learn how to produce for Generation A… “A” for “authentic”.
David Michel is the founder of Cottonwood Media, an independent production company focused on developing premium, scripted children’s content for North American and European audiences across linear and non-linear platforms. He’s the former co-founder of Marathon Media.