Friday, April 26, 2024

Paramount+ Is Carving Out a Safe Streaming Space for Kids

The streamer has a lot of stuff kids want to watch and is getting serious about making sure they have a safe and easy way to do that.

An image of a streaming service carousel with a very prominent image of Dora the Explorer.
The new carousel with a hint of the icons that will replace text. Image by Paramount Plus

There are generally two types of parents: those who let their kids watch YouTube and those who work very hard to keep their kids as far from YouTube as possible. Streaming services seem to understand that divide, and are eager to provide an alternative to YouTube that gives parents all the set-and-forget appeal of YouTube Kids without, hopefully, inappropriate content.

Paramount+, with its massive library of Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. shows, is a little more primed than other streamers that have had to create a library of kids content from scratch. In a conversation on Zoom, Dan Reich, Executive Vice President (EVP) and global head of product and design of Paramount Plus, told The Verge's Alex Cranz it was the number two content draw for the platform, which is a big reason the streaming service just overhauled its whole kids experience. The company wants it to be an “easy, fun place tailored to the demo.”

Reich and Paramount Plus wanted to make the streaming service a safer place for kids so it will now be easier to set up children’s profiles. When you go in to add a new profile, there’s now a toggle for Kids Mode and an option for Younger Kids age-gated to TV-Y and G-rated stuff and an Older Kids option age-gated up to PG content. Reich was quick to note that the profiles would not be gathering any personal data on the kids. This means a lot less personalization but also hopefully fewer recommendations that might not be appropriate.

Instead, personalization will be user-directed, which is a fancy way of saying it will rely on traditional streaming UI tricks like suggesting they keep watching a show they had to pause for homework or suggesting they watch something again — which most kids rarely need prompting to do. But personalization will also largely be reserved for older children — think ages seven to 12. Younger kids (Reich mentioned ages two to six) will have a different experience with big icons and precious few words, which makes sense as that’s around the age you’re actually learning literacy.

Besides easier profile creation, the landing page for kids content has also gotten a major refresh with a big carousel similar to the one found in the adult version of Paramount Plus. Reich noted that the carousel works, too — with a 17 percent improvement in playback rate. And if you’re worried about Paramount Plus babysitting a child too much, Reich was also quick to note that autoplay is automatically turned off in children’s profiles.

An image of the redesigned Paramount Plus kids experience.
This redesign loses big words to keep smaller kids invested. Image by Paramount Plus

These changes are already live on the Paramount Plus app as of April 22th, but in Cranz's conversation with Reich, Reich mentioned some other changes coming later to the platform, including the possibility of using generative AI to create playlists of kids content and artwork and a new profile creation prompt that’s expected to launch in Q2.

And these are all good things! Before streaming dominated content consumption, kids content was pretty well sorted onto channels and time blocks geared just for them. It was the whole point of Nickelodeon for decades. That meant kids were getting the stuff they wanted to watch (and that network censors felt was appropriate), and adults were not having to sift through children's programming to find what they wanted to watch.

Older users of Paramount+ will noticed they'll get a lot fewer recommendations for kids content than they do on Netflix and Disney Plus — which both assume a child is living in the house with them just because they sometimes rewatch younger-skewing programming. However, on Paramount+, if you rewatch a series such as The Legend of Korra, the service may suggest you rewatch Avatar: The Last Airbender or the very violent and adult Ark: The Animated Series instead of something like Dora the Explorer. Older users may find it a nice experience to have the platform understand they're an adult who likes cartoons and not just assume cartoon equals baby.

And as streaming continues to supplant cable as the way we watch content, other streaming services are going to need to get more thoughtful about how they present and separate that content. So far, it looks like Paramount Plus might be giving them a nice blueprint.

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H/T: Kidscreen.

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