Not to be outdone by rivals like Comcast and Verizon, Cox Communications has started to quietly test a mobile online video service of its own. Flare Kids, which launched as an iPad app a few days ago, offers children free and ad-free access to clips and entire episodes from TV shows like “Cailou,” “Sesame Street,” “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Doc McStuffins.”
At launch, Flare Kids offers content from a total of 10 networks and publishers, including PBS Kids, the Disney Channel, Nick Jr. and National Geographic Kids. However, Cox didn’t actually strike licensing agreements with these publishers, but instead is just aggregating content already available elsewhere, with some of the videos being pulled from YouTube.
A Cox spokesperson said that the app was primarily meant to help parents “safely navigate the multitude of existing, free online content for children.” He pointed out that it’s still early days for the app, adding: “Additional content such as eBooks, games and music will be added to the app in the future and we will have more to share soon.”
The Flare Kids app is optimized for families with young children, offering parents the ability to set up individual profiles for up to three children, and then set time limits as well as content restrictions for each of these profiles. Here’s a promotional video describing this functionality:
Flare Kids is being run by Flare Entertainment LLC, a Cox subsidiary that is also running the subscription video game service FlarePlay. That service has been in beta testing for some 18 months, but Cox just recently started to promote it, and sell hardware for the service at Toys R Us and other retailers.
Cox is also using the Flare brand for MyFlare.com, a media-centric cloud storage and synchronization service that allows users to back up and share their photos, videos and music.
Two years ago, Cox tested another Flare-themed service with FlareWatch, a TV subscription service that was based on Fan TV’s set-top-boxes and meant to combine a skinny TV bundle with online video services. Flarewatch was regionally limited — the company only tested it in Orange County, California — and short-lived: Cox shut down the beta test prematurely after just three months.
Cox’s new Flare Kids app is different in that it isn’t restricted to Cox’s footprint; consumers from all over the U.S., with the curious exception of Texas, can access Flare Kids.
The cable company also seems to be shooting for a different business model with Flare Kids: The app is completely free to download, and doesn’t come with any ads. Instead, it offers parents in-app purchases. At launch, parents can buy their kids new themes to personalize the app for $0.99 each.
The launch of Flare Kids comes at a time when other operators are also looking out of their footprint to target online and mobile audiences: Verizon is expected to launch its mobile-centric online video service Go90 in the coming weeks, and Comcast is getting ready to launch its own online service dubbed Watchable soon.