Published on: 28 November 2014 in Longform

As children increasingly turn to online video and streaming services, what does this mean for directors?

Reading time: 5 minutes and 46 seconds

According to new figures published by Ofcom, children and teens are now watching half as much TV as adults. You can read the full Ofcom report here or this summary from The Guardian.

This reflects what Directors UK Website and Social Media Manager Ash Mann found at this week's Westminster Media Forum seminar entitled 'TV and the second screen: social media, innovation and regulation'. You can read his tweets from the various panels here. His key takeaway for directors was this:

"From the point of view of directors I think it seems clear that the programme will become just part of the content that a 'broadcast' is made up of. Does that offer new avenues for creative vision or will these new avenues be closed to directors? Will they instead be seen as being within the domain of marketing? All the speakers this morning have been keen to stress creativity and immersion, which is definitely the stuff directors can lead on".

So what are the implications for content creators? How can directors reach these audiences? Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook.

We also asked a number of directors working in children's TV and non-traditional content areas for their thoughts:

Kids are still watching content - loads of content - it's just that the actual physical television is not watched as much as online/VOD platforms. In many ways it's great as there are far more indicators of watching patterns and numbers because the accurate data is now available.
Personally, why not learn about new media as a director? It can only improve your work long term. I don't necessarily create for the internet nor for online screening when making kids shows. It's not possible to know how the content will be viewed - iPhone/laptop/internet enabled TV/large or small computer monitors - what is imperative is to make the content as good as it can be.
Children's television is a really exciting area to work in; fun, challenging and innovative, yet the lack of investment is shocking given children are the next generation of consumers. I have heard that there is more investment - but making this material at the coal face so to speak, budgets are smaller/hours are tighter/demands are higher/scripts are more ambitious/pay is less - and all this effects a director's work far more than the platform upon which their work will be shown.

Delyth Thomas
Directors UK Board Member

The Ofcom report compares kids viewing to adult viewing. But that in itself doesn't tell us anything. The interesting statistic is how much TV children are viewing now, compared to ten years ago.
Since the advent of computer games, kids TV viewing has not fallen as fast or as far as predicted. This is in part due to the fact that computer games are pro-active, and TV viewing is passive. So their passive time and interactive time hasn't changed much in relation to one another.
What they do within that time has. So during their interactive time, computer game-play has replaced going outside to play. They have swapped scabs on their knees for couch sores on their backsides!
What has dented TV viewing is watching YouTube and finding shows online. Netflix today predicted that TV viewing would be dead by 2030. They may be right.
However, linear storytelling, whatever the portal children view it on, is still - and will always be - an important first port of call for new IP.
It is seductive to think that new content has to be across gaming/apps; from the very start, with game-play imbedded into the format. That has not proved the case in reality. What happens is that when a kid's TV show goes mega, great minds are brought to the table to turn that show into games and apps. The thing that validates a show going trans-media is a phenomenal financial success in its first incarnation, not the fact that game-play was embedded into its format from the start. Peppa Pig being a case in point.
The same is true of products that begin as games: they become TV shows because they've been successful in one medium, and kids will follow them anywhere.
So I would argue that “TV shows”, or whatever we end up calling them, will always be around, but the gate-keepers will change. So Directors UK need to be talking to these new gatekeepers who are currently outside any formal deals on residuals for directors or writers.

Tony Collingwood
Directors UK Member

I would say that yes children's viewing habits have clearly changed in the digital age. You only have to look at the Moshi Monsters brand: created initially as an interactive website, it has exploded in popularity and expanded to include toys, the number-one selling kids' magazine in the UK, video games and even a feature film. So it seems that interaction, and so a deeper connection with favourite characters, is what children are craving. Something that TV viewing doesn't necessarily offer, but that is provided by other interactive and 'on demand' viewing platforms on tablets and mobiles. Immediacy I would offer is also a key element for kids, the fact that they (or their parents) can fire up a device wherever they are and keep them entertained must surely be a factor.
Bringing this argument into my own realm of experience, I think that this has definitely changed the way that directors have to think and work in the commercial world. We no longer exclusively pitch ideas for straight TV commercials. More often than not we also have to think about digital and interactive content, social media and sometimes even on-site installation pieces for a brand - all elements of a campaign that people can get involved with to a greater extent.
All this has meant that overall budgets have had to be split to include funds for this extra digital world of work, which may in turn affect the quality of TV programming.

Rebecca Manley
Directors UK Board Member

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