PBS has long known that kids watch a lot of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and “Dinosaur Train,” and not always at the time the programs show up on their local station. Now the public-broadcasting outlet hopes to find a new way to fill those young viewers’ needs.
Local PBS stations will be able to launch a digital-cable TV channel and live stream, allowing them to broadcast programs from the network’s “PBS Kids” block 24 hours a day. While PBS offers “PBS Kids” in the morning and daytime hours, executives realized viewing of those shows is robust during after-school and primetime hours, when the stations move to programming more geared to adults. Viewers will be able to watch a digital-cable outlet as well as the station-branded live stream through pbskids.org, and on the PBS Kids Video App, which is available on a variety of mobile devices, tablets and over-the-top platforms such as Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Xbox One and Chromecast.
The New York Times previously reported the launch of the PBS kids effort.
Approximately 19 PBS stations now offer multicast channels for kids, said Jennifer Rankin Byrne, a PBS spokeswoman, but this new service will be programmed by the network, not individually by the stations, as has been the practice. Those efforts have been sourced independently, and the new service will come from PBS itself. “It’s a bit premature to estimate how many stations will carry the channel, as we’re just announcing plans to launch the channel,” she said. “But response from the system has been very positive.”
PBS had a stake in the kids-TV network now known as Sprout, which launched on cable TV in 2005. Comcast and HIT Entertainment were among its partners, and Comcast acquired full ownership of the network in 2013. Sprout continues to show some PBS Kids favorites like “Caillou.”
Among the programs available on the new service will be “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “Odd Squad,” “Wild Kratts,” “Dinosaur Train,” “Nature Cat” and “Ready Jet Go!,” as well as a new series, “Splash,” produced by the Jim Henson Co., slated to debut in the fall of 2016. Other PBS Kids selections, like “Curious George” and “Peg + Cat,” may also appear. The full lineup “is in development, and we’re working with the individual producers of our series to develop the full schedule,” said Byrne.
The move comes as many media companies skilled in the art of broadcasting to children are working to maintain those ties despite new viewer patterns that draw eyeballs away from traditional, linear TV viewing. Thanks to a surge in the use of mobile devices, more young viewers are able to watch their video favorites at times and places of their own choosing, and programmers who ignore that fact risk losing their attention.
Indeed, streaming on pbskids.org accounts for nearly half of all time spent watching kids videos online, PBS said, citing ComScore. Across digital platforms, PBS Kids averages 419.8 million streams per month, citing Google Analytics.
PBS intends to develop the free service over time. The network will expand its offer to include what it billed as “an integrated games feature” that will allow kids to toggle between a PBS Kids show and a game intended to spur learning. The games will align with the learning goals of each TV series.
The launch is not expected to alert the scheduling or availability of the programs on PBS’ linear broadcast.