Cox Communications hopes to hopscotch over seasoned programmers in one of the most popular and lucrative playgrounds in television: the market for youngsters.
The Atlanta-based company’s recently (and quietly) announced service, dubbed FlareKids, is a free, over-the-top mobile app for the iPad that aggregates kids shows from networks such as PBS Kids, Disney Channel and Nick Jr.
Rather than taking a route that requires Cox to carve out licensing deals, the new app aggregates and embeds videos that are freely available on the Web. Depending on the title and network, that means FlareKids is a sort of sampler that offers only select episodes.
The app has been booted up with “FlareKids Clubs” that feature shows and episodes from 10 “networks”: PBS Kids, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, Nick Jr., National Geographic Kids, Reading Rainbow, Khan Academy and Pocoyo.
By way of example, the Disney XD “club” presents seven shows, including an episode of Kickin’ In, while the Nick Jr. club offering lists episodes from two shows, Peppa Pig and Toot & Puddle.
The FlareKids app (an Android version is in the works) requires parents to register before access is granted. Then, parents can set up individual profiles for each child in the household and customize the app by “hiding” certain shows and setting time limits (of up to 120 minutes per day). Parents can also keep track of which shows each child has viewed.
The FlareKids app is free, but offers in-app purchases that allow users to further customize the experience with “themes.” One such theme, called “Cool Cats,” costs 99 cents.
Cox hasn’t announced plans to further monetize FlareKids. “Right now, we are focused on equipping parents with this tool to help create a personalized and safe digital playground for their families,” Cox spokesman Todd Smith said. “FlareKids is another example of an investment in a business/platform which organizes and presents content in a user-friendly and personalized way. Similar to other Cox products that help customers connect to the things they care about most, different in that it is focused on children and curating existing, free online content.”
Cox’s new app shines more light on the growing importance of kids-focused fare, which has long been a focus of Netflix and follows the recent launch of YouTube’s app tailored for children. FlareKids also comes on the heels of HBO’s exclusive deal for Sesame Street (FlareKids, by the way, offers several episodes of the PBS staple). Comcast, meanwhile, has introduced Kids Zone, a kids-themed offering for its X1 platform highlighting content that has been reviewed by Common Sense Media.
OTT options from Netflix and others are also putting unprecedented pressure on traditional TV-network ratings as kids’ viewing increasingly shifts to streaming and mobile devices. Viacom, the company behind Nick Jr. and Nickelodeon, is looking to make up some of that ground with Noggin, a mobile subscription VOD service for preschoolers that launched on March 5 and sells for $5.99 per month.
FlareKids is connected to Flare Entertainment and Green Lane Innovations, a unit of Cox that incubates new business opportunities. Green Lane is also the division associated with flarePlay, an OTT subscription gaming service that Cox has been beta testing for about 18 months.
Both FlareKids and flarePlay are OTT, meaning they are offered in and out of Cox’s traditional cable footprint. Comcast’s coming “Watchable” offering and Verizon’s mobile- first service, reportedly to be called Go90, are also to be delivered OTT, but will be ad-supported.
FlareKids is also the latest service to use the Flare brand, joining MyFlare, Cox’s Dropbox-like, cloud-based media storage and sharing service. Cox shut down its short-lived flareWatch IPTV trial in 2013.