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BBC Boosts Kids’ Programming to Fend Off Streaming Services, Social Media

Variety logo Variety 7/4/2017 Stewart Clarke
© Provided by Variety

The BBC is sinking an extra £34 million ($44 million) into its children’s services to fight off competition from Amazon, Netflix, YouTube, and U.S.-owned social media platforms such as Facebook.

The U.K. public broadcaster said the money would come from cost savings elsewhere in the BBC Corporation, and that the extra cash would be used across its CBeebies service, which caters to preschool kids, and CBBC, which is for older children.

The BBC said it would invest in “new forms of content and interactivity.” On the TV side, the BBC is by far the largest funder of original programming for kids in the U.K., with ITV and Channel 4 having scaled back after rules curbing ads for unhealthy food limited the commercial value of kids’ TV for them. The BBC has, however, faced new competition from streaming services Amazon and Netflix, both of which have invested heavily in kids’ content, mostly out of the U.S.

British children are also spending more time online and on social networks, and while the BBC introduced a Kids iPlayer last year, it is mindful of losing eyeballs to newer services. Accordingly, the BBC Children’s online budget will get a significant boost and receive about a quarter of the new funding. There will be new online content, games, vlogs, podcasts, and apps.

The £34 million will be distributed over the next three years and takes the overall kids budget to £124 million.

Tony Hall, the BBC’s director general, said: “We’re making BBC Children’s fit for the future, maintaining our world-class channels whilst enhancing our online offer to meet the needs of the next generation.”

“Our audience is rapidly changing, and now more than ever we need to keep up,” said Alice Webb, director of Children’s. “We’re home to the most popular kids’ TV channels in the UK, but as our audience increasingly move[s] online, it’s our job to stay relevant, inspiring and engaging them on whichever platform they choose.”

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