Roku unveiled a new kids and family content section in its Roku Channel Monday, making it easier for young viewers to find movies and shows they’d like to watch, and assuring their parents that the little ones won’t be exposed to inappropriate content or ads.
The new kids section offers access to 7000 free and ad-supported movies and TV show episodes from partners including Hasbro, DHX, Lionsgate, Mattel, Moonbug, A Spark, Pocket.Watch and others. In addition, it will have several TV-like linear channels for leanback viewing.
Kids will also be able to discover age-appropriate content from any subscription video service their parents may have signed up to through the Roku Channel. For instance, if consumers subscribe to HBO through the Roku Channel, the kids section will automatically be populated with a dedicated row for shows like “Sesame Street” and other appropriate content from the premium network.
However, kids will not be able to sign up for any new subscription services on their own, and they won’t be prompted to beg their parents for it either. “We don’t want to upsell kids to paid content,” said Roku vice president of programming and engagement Rob Holmes in a recent interview with Variety.
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Roku is also introducing parental control via pin code for the Roku Channel to make sure that youngsters don’t just find content that exceeds their age rating in other sections. However, Roku devices do not have system-wide parental controls beyond blocking the installation of new channels, meaning that actual parenting is still very much required.
For the design of the kids and family section, Roku arguably took some cues from Netflix’s kids UI: The channel not only offers young viewers to find content by category, but also by character, meaning they can easily discover all the “My Little Pony” movies and TV show episodes in one place.
Roku is actively curating the channel, and relying on editors instead of machine learning to approve content. “We want this to be a hand-selected experience,” Holmes said. The same goes for ads, with Holmes saying that the company wanted to make sure that young viewers don’t get to see ads not appropriate for their age.
Of course, Roku also benefits from the ability to provide advertisers with an environment that caters to a young target audience. At the same time, the company is using its ad load as an argument to convince parents, promising that the section will have just about 40% of the advertising shown on regular TV.
Holmes said that the company did quite a bit of research and user testing before launching the channel, which also included his own 2 young kids. “They’ve been active beta testers,” he told Variety.