Diana, the bubbly and charismatic young star of YouTube’s Kids Diana Show, already has a massive following of 123 million subscribers across the globe.
Now the Ukrainian family behind Kids Diana Show is aiming to grow their business based on the 6-year-old digital influencer into an even bigger venture under a wide-ranging pact with Pocket.watch, the L.A.-based kid-content studio startup.
Pocket.watch announced “Love, Diana — The Princess of Play,” a new brand built around Diana, which will encompass a new original series; a consumer products line, including toys and apparel available for the 2020 holiday season; games; and potentially TV and film projects.
With Diana, Pocket.watch founder/CEO Chris M. Williams believes his company can replicate the success it has found with Ryan’s World (formerly Ryan ToysReview), the brand built around preteen superstar Ryan Kaji — which now comprises an extensive consumer-products line and “Ryan’s Mystery Playdate,” a top-rated preschool series on Nickelodeon.
“Diana has real similar scale and magnetism as Ryan — but for girls,” Williams said.
Kids Diana Show is the third-biggest channel on YouTube in terms of views, after T-Series and kid-song powerhouse Cocomelon. In her videos, Diana hosts surreal and playful adventures along with her parents and brother, Roma.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for kids’ content has spiked, according to Williams: Her network of channels — available in nine languages — generated 4.5 billion views in April 2020, up from 3.5 billion in in February. “Pretend play is perfect for the audience right now,” he said.
Pocket.watch has started production of 40 episodes of “Love, Diana,” a live-action and animated hybrid series. In the show, Diana transforms from live-action into the animated Princess of Play, who protects her friends, family and the Land of Play from Boris, the Baron of Boredom, and his “minions of the mundane.” Williams said episodes of “Love, Diana” will include positive lessons about friendship, leadership, family, imagination and the power of play. The series is slated to launch fall of 2020 on Kids Diana Show’s YouTube properties and Pocket.watch’s OTT network, which includes Amazon Prime Video, the Roku Channel and Samsung TV Plus.
“With Kids Diana Show, we’ve created a global community that shares in Diana’s love of play and imagination,” Olena and Volodymyr, Diana’s parents, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to join Pocket.watch, a company that has done such amazing things with many of the creators we admire.”
While YouTube content is the heartbeat of Pocket.watch’s portfolio, the company makes more of its money in merchandise. The company has already signed nine licensees for the forthcoming “Love, Diana” product line, targeted at children 2-7, and retail distribution agreements in the U.S., U.K. and Australia.
Diana-based products are due to hit store shelves and online retailers in October 2020. The current “Love, Diana” licensees are: Headstart (dolls, doll accessories, and styling heads); Just Play (role play); Jerry Leigh (dress-up); Far Out Toys (collectibles); HiJinx (plush toys); H.E.R. (hair accessories and jewelry); Taste Beauty (bath and beauty); Franco Manufacturing (home textiles, bedroom and bath); and KidKraft (furniture and dollhouses).
Pocket.watch also plans to extend the Love, Diana brand into mobile gaming via its p.w Games division, which recently launched Ryan’s World’s “Tag With Ryan.” The Diana mobile game, to be available for iOS and Android later in 2020, will feature a collection of mini-games that will lets kids design their own “Princess of Play” experiences.
In 2021, Pocket.watch expects to continue expanding “Love, Diana,” with new channels, new retailers and product categories and more countries. “We specialize in identifying these stars who can be truly global, massive franchises,” said Williams. “We mine for it constantly.”
As for critics who charge that companies like Pocket.watch are exploiting young children for profit, Williams pointed out that questions about kid actors have been issues for Hollywood since the days of Shirley Temple. “Providing for the safety and health of these kids is our top priority,” he said. “It’s something we take incredibly seriously and it’s our No. 1 goal.”
Pocket.watch provides parents of the kids it works with a handbook of best practices, covering topics like how often a child should be shooting videos and how to set aside money for their kids in compliance with laws, Williams said. The company also conducts due diligence on the families it partners with to, among other things, ensure they prioritize education, socialization and the well-being of their children.
Founded in 2017, Pocket.watch is backed by investors including ViacomCBS, Greycroft, Third Wave Digital, UTA, and individual investors including Robert Downey Jr. (through Team Downey) and Jon Landau.
The based in Culver City, Calif.-based startup’s execs include chief content officer Albie Hecht, chief revenue officer Stone Newman, chief strategy officer Jon Moonves, CMO Kerry Tucker, and GM/SVP of channels David B. Williams.