With kids’ videos among the most watched on YouTube, it’s no surprise many companies have begun tapping into the growing market to create digital content for tiny audiences. Well-known children’s entertainment companies such as Cartoon Network, Disney and Nickelodeon have long produced animated and live-action content for children with the same approach — colorful, with relatable characters and storylines. However, we’ve come a long way since traditional formats, and without a doubt, brands must adjust to fit the demands of kids today.
To live up to the “iGeneration’s” expectations, many companies have been introducing digital entertainment with an interactive twist. In its broadest sense, the term interactive entertainment refers to products and services on digital, computer-based systems, which respond to the users’ actions as they click and/or point to the activity at hand. Though not strictly interactive entertainment, it’s arguable that the precursors to this medium were “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, also known as gamebooks, which debuted in 1979. Gamebooks were written from a second-person perspective with the reader assuming the lead role, making choices to determine the outcome of a story.
For many young parents today, their first exposure to this format might have been the classic Goosebumps books written by R.L Stine. Its “Give Yourself Goosebumps” series allowed readers to choose how a story progressed and ended, allowing them to control the destiny of the protagonist. Nowadays, instead of books, tots can put the “Choose Your Own Adventure” concept to the test by simply tuning in to content on Netflix. The streaming giant is hoping to capture the fickle attention spans of the iGeneration by offering a new, interactive way to consume content. Netflix has even partnered up with Dreamworks to introduce Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale as well as launched its own original interactive programming, Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile.
Across the pond, American interactive content streaming advances have caused a stir, and after noticing a decline in children’s TV viewership in the U.K., BBC, the iconic British broadcasting network, announced substantial investment in developing children’s content over the next three years. The network believes its efforts will withstand the undeniable influence American streaming companies have on the children’s entertainment industry in the U.K. market. The project will focus on reviving content found on its CBeebies and CBBC channels. In addition, its online platform for children will expand, offering live online programs, online video blogs and interactive digital content.
Shifting from traditional TV formats to incorporate interactivity not only helps retain attention, but also boosts creativity and imagination in children. In some instances, it could also go a long way toward developing motor skills. However, like any new concept or technology, there are pros and cons. Depending on the platform, content creators should be mindful that interacting with storylines could have a different affect on children than what was hoped for.
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