How Could Disney+ Reshape Kids’ Digital Video Consumption?

How Could Disney+ Reshape Kids’ Digital Video Consumption?

Today’s kids are more digital than previous generations at the same age. But, while digital video is certainly an important part of kids’ media diet, we estimate that just over half of those ages 11 and younger (52.4%) will be digital video viewers this year. TV penetration is still much higher (close to nine in 10), although time spent is declining.

Disney+ has the potential to change that, though it remains to be seen how exactly it will reshape kids’ video/TV landscape. The streaming service has generated loud buzz since its November 2019 launch—backed up by the reported 1.9 million US subscribers it signed up before launching, according to a report by analytics firm Jumpshot—and it could be a major draw for kids and parents alike.

Citing November 2019 data from Apptopia, MarketWatch reported the streaming service was “adding nearly a million new subscribers a day.” Such numbers lend credence to the findings of an August 2019 Hub Research survey in which four in 10 respondents in households with kids said they would definitely or probably subscribe.

From a parent’s point of view, “screens are such an easy babysitter for your kid,” said Kathi Chandler-Payatt, executive director and media entertainment analyst at The NPD Group. Because parents grew up with Disney content themselves, “it gives you that peace of mind” that the material will be kid-appropriate. And once parents get it, she said, they’re likely to keep it. “The parents are not going to cancel Disney+ if their kids have shows on it that they watch and rewatch.”

Though there is much discussion of how Disney+ might affect other subscription services as it vies for kids’ attention, that is not its whole competitive universe. It’s in a battle with anything that might lay claim to kids’ time and attention. “Disney+ isn’t just competing with Netflix,” said Michael Baer, senior vice president of brand and marketing at Ipsos Media Development. “It’s competing with YouTube and video games; it’s competing with a cronut.”

The streaming service is also competing with traditional TV. Amid all the attention to digital video, kids still view lots of nondigital TV. For one thing, TV penetration among kids is much higher than that of digital video. We estimate that 86.6% of kids 11 and younger will be TV viewers this year—more than 30 percentage points higher than the digital video figure.

“TV is still a really big part of kids’ lives,” said Stephanie Retblatt, executive vice president and "chief brainiac" at market research consultancy Smart Pants. “It’s the most immersive experience. It’s centrally located in the home. It’s certainly the easiest device to experience co-entertainment.”

However, while penetration is holding up well, kids’ time spent with TV is ebbing. We estimate that children 11 and under will average a daily 1 hour, 48 minutes (1:48) watching TV this year, down from 2:23 as recently as 2017.

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