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Nickelodeon Buys Sparkler, Early-Childhood Learning Tech Startup, to Bulk Up Noggin Subscription Service

Kristen Kane - Noggin - Sparkler
Courtesy of Nickelodeon

Viacom’s Nickelodeon plans to stir new technology into its Noggin subscription service with the acquisition of Sparkler — a move that promises to give parents tools to guide the learning of their preschool-age kids.

Nick on Friday announced the deal to acquire New York-based Sparkler, an early-childhood learning technology platform. The cabler also appointed Sparkler co-founder and CEO Kristen Kane (pictured above) as the new head of for the Noggin direct-to-consumer service.

A Nick rep declined to reveal how much the company paid for Sparkler or how many employees it has. Sparkler, founded in 2015, had received funding from angel investors and selected grants, including from the NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit educational organization.

Nickelodeon said that over the next year, Sparkler’s technology — designed to measure child development and coach parents on improving their kids’ learning — will be integrated into Noggin’s platform. That will provide tools for parents to guide their kids’ development through “engaging, playable content and experiences on and off screen.”

In addition, Nick said Sparkler will continue to work with schools, healthcare providers, and social-services providers through a new Viacom-backed nonprofit org called Sparkler Learning.

First launched in 2015, Noggin costs $7.99 per month and includes access to more than 1,500 episodes of kids’ TV shows, short-form videos and music videos, and other content — all without any ads.

Kane, newly appointed to the role Noggin’s executive VP, will oversee the integration of Sparkler and drive Noggin’s strategy and next phase of development as an educational digital platform. She will be based in New York and report to Nickelodeon president Brian Robbins.

Robert Delacruz will continue as general manager of Noggin, now reporting to Kane.

“Pairing Sparkler’s capabilities with our curriculum-driven content will fully transform Noggin into a premier interactive learning destination for preschoolers and their families,” Robbins said in announcing the deal. He added that Kane “brings extensive experience in the education and technology space, and she will help drive Noggin’s growth with an increased focus on delivering even greater value to our direct-to-consumer service.”

Prior to co-founding Sparkler, Kane was the founding COO of Amplify, an education-tech company that developed learning experiences for students in K-12 grades. Prior to that, she was COO of the New York City Department of Education under former Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s administration. She also worked at the FCC, where she led the development of strategies for applying broadband technologies in education, healthcare, and energy sectors.

Nickelodeon hasn’t disclosed how many subscribers it has signed up for Noggin, but claims it tripled its sub based in 2018 from the year prior. Noggin is available for iPad, iPhone, Apple TV, Android, Fire tablet and Roku devices, as well as on Amazon’s Prime Video Channels and the Roku Channel.

Shows currently on the Noggin service include “PAW Patrol,” “Blaze and the Monster Machines,” “Peppa Pig,” and “Bubble Guppies,” along with library titles including “Dora the Explorer,” “Blue’s Clues,” “Team Umizoomi” and “Yo Gabba Gabba!”