Hooked on platforms from age two

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Hooked: Why Netflix and Amazon want your kids by Greg Nichols in The California Sunday Magazine. In short:

  • Get parents to subscribe
  • Shows for kids have relatively unknown talent, lower production values, thus lower cost
  • Shape viewing habits for life


“It’s about building early relationships,” he tells me, explaining why children are so valuable to the company. “The way I watch TV today has a lot to do with the way I watched ten years ago. The way kids watch as they get older is going to be grounded in how they used to watch on Netflix.”

In late 2013, a Nickelodeon survey found that children aged 9 and younger watched an average of 35 hours of television per week, a 2.2-hour increase from 2009. That’s in addition to other screen time like gaming and surfing the web. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average 8-year-old spends eight hours a day — 56 hours per week — using electronic media such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. “Go to the airport and you’ll see a 2-year-old who knows how to operate Netflix on his iPad perfectly,” Sarandos says.

Kids who grow up streaming TV on mobile devices have a lot more choice and more control over what they watch than their parents could have imagined in their channel-surfing youth. Since the big streaming platforms are subscription-based, today’s kids also watch far fewer commercials. “The kids-only section is a safe place to play, and you’re not going to get inundated with advertising for sugar stuff,” Sarandos says. More important, he argues, the ad-free environment allows for more interesting programming.

That is if you don’t count the programming as advertisement for the platform. Screen stuff rather than sugar stuff.

Contrasting with relatively low-cost kid TV production:

During feature production, studios hire hundreds of 3-D animators and give them months to craft individual strands of hair and leaves on trees.

I’ve noted previously that big budget movies are “our” mass games: spectacle, but we’d be better off with a freedom-respecting regime, even if it produced less spectacle, including less of an avalanche of kid programming. Compare 3-D animators crafting individual strands of hairs and Arirang Festival performers.

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Something I would love to see, is a libre video project with a focus on this sort of “low-cost” animation. I think by re-using characters/scenes/models, aiming for “good enough” animation instead of pushing the envelope, and short run times (2-4 minutes) a pretty regular (at least twice a month) YouTube show could see some success over time.