The War for their Screens
Over the last few years, it has been impossible to ignore the growing popularity of streaming services within society. It is estimated that around 6.4million people subscribe to Netflix in the UK and roughly 5 million subscribe to Amazon Prime (1). These platforms have transformed the way everyone – including children – consume media, and has even introduced the phenomenon of ‘binge watching’ to popular culture.
Children are increasingly being lured to these streaming services due to the wide array of creative, well-produced, original content – some of which utilizes popular characters from franchises such as Shrek (2). Furthermore, these services are continuing to revolutionise the way children consume TV content – with Netflix recently announcing that they had developed programmes that would allow children to ‘choose their adventure’, prompting children on-screen to select the story’s path at different points in the programme (3).
However, with these services largely dominated by American content, their pervasiveness in British homes now comes at the expense of original British programming – take Blue Peter, who recently drew in zero viewers during a repeat of one of its episodes (4). Since high-quality, age-appropriate TV consumption plays an influential role in kids’ learning and development (5, 6), the increase in American content on streaming services has prompted some concern over how this will impact children in the UK.
Many feel that an over-exposure to American content may be having a detrimental impact on children’s development (7), but whether or not these fears are justified it is crucial that we are still celebrating and promoting original British content. Subsequently, the BBC have recently announced plans to boost their investment in kids’ programming to tackle the influx of American content and strengthen the future of British programming (8). They have also acknowledged the need to adapt their services to the more technologically savvy child of 2017, announcing their development of new voice-activated kids’ content to increase engagement by prompting children to interact with the show at different points (9).
Ultimately, kids now have access to such a diverse range of content, accessing it whenever and wherever they want. As a result, if broadcasters are being encouraged to invest more in kids’ programming and thinking outside of the box in terms of how they maintain their engagement, this can only be a good thing for British programming!
5. Kirkorian, H. L., Wartella, E. A., & Anderson, D. R. (2008). Media and young children’s learning. The Future of Children, 18(1), 39-61.
6. Mares, M. L., & Pan, Z. (2013). Effects of Sesame Street: A meta-analysis of children’s learning in 15 countries. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 34(3), 140-151.
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