BBC to launch kids’ iPlayer next year
James R | On 28, Sep 2015
The BBC has confirmed its plans to release a new children’s version of BBC iPlayer.
Provisionally titled “iPlay”, the service was first hinted at during Tony Hall’s speech this month about the corporation’s plans over the coming 10 years. Hall announced that it will offer both content by the BBC and from” carefully chosen partners”, group videos by age groups (as well as by channels) and use personalised recommendations to suggest programmes.
Now, Director of BBC Children’s Alice Webb has outlined in more detail the Beeb’s plans for the new service.
“As Tony said, he has put BBC Children’s front and centre of that process as part of his new vision for the BBC,” she said in a speech at the end of last week, describing iPlay as “a single, online front-door for children to the wealth of the whole BBC and trusted partners beyond – giving content to children that matures with them”.
As well as Cbeebies and CBBC content, for example, it will also include programmes suitable for younger viewers, such as Great British Bake Off, Match of the Day, BBC Bitesize, Radio 1 and Big Blue Live.
Original programming, which has slowly become a key part of BBC iPlayer, will also be a cornerstone of iPlayer, with plans to commission new types of content, whether interactive formats, film or audio clips, games or digital creative activity.
“Learning and making will be at the core of iPlay – encouraging children to be active creators, not just passive consumers. And it will also include blogs, podcasts and educational tools to help develop digital and creative skills to boot.”
While Webb echoed Hall’s plans to team up with other organisations, she stressed that the service would remain “free from commercial influence”. Indeed, the service follows in the footsteps of YouTube’s own dedicated kids’ app, which was criticised for including commercial content.
Webb emphasised the importance of the BBC’s role as a “trusted guide” for families, promising “simple tools that give parents the power to choose what their children are ready for and when”.
The move is part of the BBC’s plans to make it “even more relevant, even more engaging and even more inspiring for the 12 million children of the UK”.
Indeed, according to Ofcom, one in three kids aged between 5 and 15 now own a tablet, while the proportion of children watching TV on a tablet has also risen by a third in a year to 20 per cent – a third now watch TV on-demand.
As a result, the online video industry is racing to release dedicated kids’ platforms to capture a whole new audience. It’s not just YouTube: Netflix, which already has a kid-specific section of its service, has commissioned a whole heap of original content to go with it, indie SVOD service Hopster, which provides shows and educational games, has gone international and launched on Android, and Amazon has introduced its own rival kids’ subscription service and dedicated tablet. Even Sky is planning to enter the fray, with the expansion of its kids’ on-demand library from 700 episodes to 4,000 and a partnership with ustwo, designers of Monument Valley, to create a children’s app.
The BBC, though, is already engaging with young eyeballs through iPlayer: 25 per cent of kids come to CBBC via BBC iPlayer.
“[iPlayer] will let children interact with others in a safe environment and to explore and express their creativity in ways that the the audience of 10 years ago could never have imagined,” added Webb.