Family Co-Viewing Up, Linear May Be Benefitting From Parents' Content Concerns

Family co-viewing time has increased in the past few years, according to a study of 5,000 families and 20,147 family members across 10 countries.

In this new, 2023 study, Kids Industries (KI), a UK-based marketing agency specializing in the family market, found 73% of parents reporting that they co-view TV with their kids at least half of the time. In the agency’s 2019 global study, 74% of parents reported co-viewing “at least once per month.”

The new survey also finds that linear TV is far from irrelevant for families, with 53% of children watching live linear at least once per week, compared to 55% watching streamed content at least once per week.  

Both findings reflect parents’ increased concern about kids’ media consumption as a result of kids’ access to connected devices and the overwhelming amounts of available content.

According to this survey, the average global family now has 6.1 connected devices, the average child has 3.1 devices, and the average number of TV subscriptions is 5.1. In the UK, KI counted more than 42,800 titles to choose from across Prime Video, Netflix, Now TV and Disney+.

Children are most likely to discover new streamed content from YouTube (57%), but other influential media platforms include recommendations from friends and family (51%), ads on video-on-demand/streaming platforms (37%), and live TV advertising (32%).  

Half (50%) of kids discover new brands and products via YouTube, 46% via friends and family recommendations, and 30% through live/broadcast TV advertising.

Increasingly, parents’ growing concerns are influencing the way that children’s media are delivered and consumed, according to KI.

“Both linear and streamed content have something to offer children,” says KI co-founder and CEO Gary Pope. “But, in my opinion, linear is gaining momentum because of trust. It offers a viewership moment… making an ‘event’ something to look forward to, something to anticipate.” When a program becomes a special moment for families, it helps the content franchise to flourish, he says.

Content that connects with families builds supportive fanbases — communities who “will invest in merchandise, experiences and more,” he adds.

Parents want content that they can trust, with 32% saying that “negative media the child is exposed to” is the biggest challenge they face.

Parents’ top five priorities from media content are: positive role models for children (52%), the opportunity to watch/play together and have fun (47%), "soft" education/problem solving (42%), story lines explaining real-world issues (38%) and focus on imagination and fantasy (38%).

But the fragmented, hugely competitive content environment has made it more difficult than ever for both media and product brands to form the connections with kids and families that are crucial for success, says Pope.

“In a time where our research shows that 89% of three-to-five-year-olds can navigate a smartphone, but only 14% can tie their shoelaces, we can see how models are shifting right before our eyes,” he comments. “Brands that aren’t building fans in significant numbers connected to the stories they tell should be concerned.”

“It’s clear that for children, content consumption has become the main free-time activity, ahead of any type of active play,” he adds. “We’re not going to be able to change this, so we need to, and we have a responsibility to, make sure that the content we create for these audiences is as nutritious as it is possible to be.”

Producers need to focus on developing content that “can be shared between generations through storytelling and humor, building a lifestyle brand universe — not just entertainment — and making emotional connections as the virtual and real-world crossover via shared experiences,” he concludes.

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