The way children watch TV is changing – shifting away from the big screen in the living room to tablets and other mobile devices. In order to better cater to the needs of this more digital audience, PBS has now launched a new 24/7 TV channel, PBS KIDS, which is available on television through PBS member stations, but also as a streaming service via the web and the PBS KIDS app.
According to the company, the new station and its streaming service will be especially helpful to those children in low-income households, who are more likely to rely on TV for educational content, as well as in those where the family’s only access to the internet comes through mobile devices.
107 PBS stations will carry the PBS KIDS channel on TV, which brings it to 90 percent of U.S. TV households. Of these, 73 stations will debut the channel starting today, Monday, January 16th. The others will launch the channel in the months ahead.
What’s notable about channel is that live, streaming video is not an afterthought – it’s part of the main offering. At launch, the network is immediately making the live stream available to viewers via the web, through the PBSKIDS.org site, as well as to mobile users on the free PBS KIDS Video app.
That app, as many parents know, has been around for some time, featuring PBS children’s programming, like Curious George, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Wild Kratts, Peg + Cat, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, Dinosaur Train, SUPER WHY!, Nature Cat, Ready Jet Go! and Sesame Street.
The live TV service will now become a part of that app, in the markets where it’s offered, and will offer a total of 21 PBS KIDS series, including those above along with others.
To date, the PBS KIDS app has been downloaded 16.4 million times and saw 4.2 billion streams over the course of 2016, which means it already has a built-in audience for the new property. And unlike Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Viacom’s Noggin, PBS’s streaming service will be free. In fact, it will now become the only free national 24/7 kids TV and streaming service in the U.S., the network notes.
However, the larger plan is to expand beyond live TV and video streaming, says PBS.
Later in the year, the live stream will also introduce a new, integrated games feature where kids can toggle between the show they’re watching, to play an activity that extends their learning. This is similar in spirit to the interactive programming format that TV shows like Sesame Street. pioneered, which later became a staple among kids TV. Except now, instead of having characters break the fourth wall and speak directly to the camera to ask questions and prompt responses, kids will be challenged to play a learning game.
PBS says this feature is grounded in research, and will increase the learning gains possible compared with TV alone. As per its previous efforts, PBS KIDS’ new channel will help to promote early literacy, math, and social-emotional skills for the pre-Kindergarten age group.
In addition to learning games, starting April 21, 2017, the channel will also launch “PBS KIDS Family Night.” From 7 to 9 PM on Friday evenings, PBS KIDS will offer family friendly movies, including both current favorites and new premieres from its children’s series.
The new channel is rolling out beginning today, where it will be offered in addition to the current PBS station. The PBS KIDS streaming service via the web and app is also now live.