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Kids Move Streaming Forward with 43% Increase in Viewership from 2020 to 2021

Joshua Thiede

Whitney Houston believes the children are the future, and streaming services are quite certain they are leading the way to big wins in the market. A recent study from the United Talent Agency (UTA) shows a surge in demand for kid’s shows from 2020 to 2021, while viewership of children’s content hit 43%, more than doubling the gains in all other TV genres during the same time period.

While everyone was forced indoors thanks to the pandemic, streaming viewership surged across the board. However, the UTA study shows that a lot of those additional viewers were tuning in to kid’s programming, which makes sense considering parents needed something for their tots to do during the lockdown. The UTA report focuses on parents of children ages 3 to 12, focusing mainly on media consumption habits during the pandemic.

Netflix has long been the go-to for kid's shows, and its position as a universal streamer for audiences of all ages appears to have given it an advantage over the Disney+ family-friendly catalog. In fact, UTA points out that four out of the five most popular films on Netflix were children’s titles. Where youth programming used to be a way to retain subscribers, the need for wholesome content has become a major driver for the streamer’s adoption.

UTA isn’t the only one to notice the trend. A Samba TV report tracking streamers’ most popular shows by month indicated that “Sesame Street” was the most-streamed series in June on HBO Max, a company with a decreasing amount of kids content in its library. It can be assumed that parents aren’t choosing the service thanks to its broad catalog of family-friendly content, so an uptick in Elmo viewers suggests that kids are tuning in to one of the few shows on the platform that provides consistent and child-friendly entertainment.

The UTA study also asked parents what they’re looking for in shows for their kids. Unsurprisingly, 94% of parents want children’s programming to promote education and development, especially content that dovetails with the shifting curricula in American schools. What is notable is a trend toward content that involves children’s mental and emotional states. With the New York Times reporting that school psychologists state most of their students are suffering from some form of anxiety or depression, it makes sense that 93% of parents feel these developmental issues should be addressed.

“Given these grim statistics, mental health has become a central topic of kids’ media and entertainment,” the report stated, feeling children needed “content that promotes mindfulness and meditation” to combat growing mental health concerns.

Diversity is also an important issue for many parents as 82% wish to see more representation in their kid’s programming. The study suggests that content can provide avenues for open discussion, especially on topics such as race and diversity that are often difficult to have frank conversations about.

The UTA study provides important feedback for streamers about how parents want their children to interact with digital content. Pulling in new subscribers with children’s television both solidifies gains today and helps create a future audience that understands the value of streaming. To do so, media companies are going to have to focus on providing content that parents want their children to watch. Otherwise, streamers will be left with a collection of kid’s shows and films that does nothing but create a library that no one wants to visit.

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