The total number of hours that 2-to-11-year-olds spend watching TV each week has held steady at about 17 for the last three years, according to Interpublic Group of Cos.' Magna Global. WPP Group's MindShare reports that total TV hours have actually risen 8% over the last 10 years for this group.
While Nickelodeon says TV watching by kids 6-14 grew in 2005 by nearly an hour a week to a little more than 23 hours, the Nick survey also reveals kids spent nearly 17 hours a week on broadband. Kids 8-14 sent about 14 text messages and made nearly nine cellphone calls a day.
The problem for content providers and advertisers isn't that kids have abandoned traditional TV. The problem is that kids' attention has become so fractured, and in this DVR and on-demand media age, they want to determine not just what they'll watch but when they'll watch it.
For marketers, it makes the content to which they attach their ads more important than ever. "If kids are interested in your content and want to see it, then that spells well for you. If they don't want to see it, it doesn't matter how much distribution you have," says Al Kahn, CEO of 4Kids Entertainment, which produces shows including "Winx Club" and "Yu-Gi-Oh!"
What's a marketer to do?
Buy more programs, says Debbie Solomon, senior partner-group research director at MindShare, Chicago.
There are other tactics. Continue to buy on broadcast and cable TV, but also buy across other platforms like online.
The situation "has forced us to make sure our content is available everywhere and anywhere kids want," says Jim Perry, senior VP-ad sales at Nickelodeon. "Every conversation is multiplatform. It's about how to use Nickelodeon. We don't have conversations anymore about how to just use Nick TV."
the omnipresent nick
The Nickelodeon brand is now spread across platforms including subscription game service Nickarcade.com, Verizon Wireless' VCast mobile video, video-on-demand, broadband video with TurboNick, and iTunes for video iPods.
Advertisers are weaving themselves into Nickelodeon's omnipresence, like PepsiCo's Quaker did last fall. That's when Nickelodeon ran an on-air stunt for its show "Danny Phantom" giving viewers the chance to build their own "enemy ghost" in an online game at Nick.com. Quaker was an on-air sponsor, placed "enemy codes" on its packaging that drove users to the online game and served as the exclusive sponsor of a sweepstakes to win a trip to Los Angeles to meet the creator of the show.
"We want to be everywhere our audience is," says Steve Youngwood, exec VP-digital media at Nickelodeon. "If you didn't do that, very simply somebody else will do it ... technology allows the consumers to get what they want, how they want."
Disney ABC Kids Network is also active across multiple platforms. Tricia Wilber, senior VP-advertising sales and promotions at Disney ABC Cable Networks Group, has said in upfront presentations that her kids network-reaching nearly 30 million 2-to-11-year-olds across Disney Channel, ABC Kids and Toon Disney-plans to offer integrated marketing to key advertisers this year that reaches across TV, print and online. That includes episodes of Disney Channel and "Jetix" series that will be streamed online later this year.
Technology has also allowed kids to watch shows on their schedule via on-demand programming. Kids VOD ranks in the top three on-demand categories for Comcast Corp., along with movies and music, the cable operator says. Comcast offers a handful of VOD-only kids networks, such as Pre-K Kids and Vortex. It also carries PBS Kids Sprout, which was born last year as an on-demand offering and now has expanded into its own digital network.
Kid-oriented content performs well on VOD, says Mike Bologna, partner-director of emerging communications at Mediaedge:cia, New York. Mr. Bologna, who's placed marketers including Campbell Soup Co. on kids VOD, notes the constant need of today's young ones to be entertained, and these factors make kids VOD attractive to advertisers.
When it comes to specific VOD networks, kids outlets typically rank in the top five or 10 among all VOD networks, says Braxton Jarratt, senior VP-marketing and business development at Tandberg Television, which provides VOD software and services to operators.
Comcast recently began deploying new VOD ad technology from Tandberg that inserts timely, targeted ads into VOD programs. Until now, ads have been inserted into VOD content months in advance, making it unattractive for marketers with time-sensitive messages.
"With VOD ad insertion, you have the ability to target any geographic or demographic anytime," Mr. Jarratt says. That means advertisers are likely to use VOD increasingly to reach kids, because it'll be easier to deliver targeted messages and because, quite simply, kids are showing up on-demand.
In a 2005 study from Marquest Research, about 29% of adult respondents in VOD homes with kids reported watching VOD programming three or more times per week, compared with only 12% in VOD homes without kids.
ON-DEMAND CONTENT SOARS
Cartoon Network saw total views for its kids on-demand content (which doesn't include the popular Adult Swim franchise) rise 171% from November 2004 to November 2005, says Chris Pizzurro, VP-digital ad sales and marketing for Turner Broadcasting System. Cartoon Network's on-demand advertisers have included Campbell and Paramount Pictures.
PBS Kids Sprout, with on-demand advertisers like Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s Huggies and Pull-Ups, has also seen a rise in on-demand orders for its content-up to 7.5 million per month in January on Comcast, a 25% increase from its previous average of 6 million per month, says Sandy Wax, president of the network.
But research directors at media agencies remain cautious about the frenzy over multiple platforms. That's because marketers haven't yet figured out uniform methods to measure ROI, says Lisa Quan, VP-associate director of broadcast research at Magna Global, New York. "I can't see that it hurts to be across all platforms," she says, "but I don't think it's essential."
Maybe not essential, but VOD offers a potential bonus in viewership beyond kids. Advertising has the benefit of hitting a dual audience, says Mr. Bologna of Mediaedge:cia, since the ads usually reach the parents. After all, it's mom and dad who order the program.
For kids wearying of Pokemon, meet "Ben 10." Ben Tennyson, a 10-year-old creation appearing on Cartoon Network, develops 10 alien powers that extend beyond Saturday a.m. cartoons to a smart online "Battle Ready" game for young Web warriors.