There’s been an unlikely addition to channel guides this month with the arrival of Sky Kids. Unlikely given the incessant reports of the demise of live TV, especially children’s TV. So what’s behind the move?
The new channel boosts Sky’s children’s offering as third parties review their live TV services.
Sky has already lost Disney’s children’s channels. And as WBD prepares to flex its muscles when its current Sky carriage expires, there’s scope for other big changes to children’s broadcasting in the coming two years.
Last autumn, Sky sold its stake in Nickelodeon UK, giving Paramount full control of the channel and its future destiny as a live TV channel. This cleared the path for Sky to do its own thing and launch a live TV extension of its Kids brand, previously used for its on-demand library of children’s programmes.
By launching it on channel 609, it’s also got another ace up its sleeve.
For when the BBC closes CBBC, CBeebies will almost certainly move up one slot on the TV guide – giving CBeebies the prominence that the BBC has demanded from Sky and not allowing another commercial channels to leapfrog it.
But that will mean Sky Kids can also move up. In an instant Sky Kids will be on CBeebies’ old channel number. And what better way to gain viewers by taking over a rival’s former slot? Especially as both Sky Kids and CBeebies have significant overlap in target audience (Sky Kids targets children up to the age of 7, CBeebies is for the under-6s).
The same principle is true in the event Nickelodeon (Paramount) and Cartoon Network (WBD) close before CBBC – as the BBC channels would automatically move up with Sky Kids in hot pursuit on the slot below.
A similar set-up is brewing on Sky Glass/Sky Stream, where Sky Kids has leapfrogged other children’s channels to position itself right behind the BBC’s children’s channels.
As the BBC faces ongoing cuts, a potentially tired looking CBeebies will sit alongside a vitalised Sky Kids channel, brimming with content that for the first time looks set to offer a valid alternative to CBeebies.
Until now, most children’s channels for younger children have relied on imported programmes, especially cartoons. CBeebies always stood out as different and has been valued by parents as a result.
Now Sky, right through to its bedtime hour rival stands to gain with the same recipe of new and innovative children’s programmes.
For those unfamiliar with the new Sky Kids channel, it goes up against CBeebies with In the Night Garden Specials at 6pm followed by 64 Zoo Lane – you’d be easily forgiven for mistaking Sky Kids with CBeebies at this stage. It then has its own bedtime Sleepy Stories at 6.45pm.
And for those younger ones who can’t sleep, the channel continues broadcasting right through the night.
Sky has long argued it should have public service broadcasting credentials. Through the provision of Sky News and Sky Arts on Freeview, the company argues it produces high quality public service content.
The subject of opening up public service media to new providers was last mentioned in April 2022, when the Government’s white paper on broadcasting indicated a future change could come, that could open up the way for Sky and WBD to join the world of UK public broadcasters.
The creation of Sky Kids adds another argument in their favour. It comes a year before the BBC plans to close one of its children’s channels and will undoubtedly be used as an example of how Sky is investing in British children’s content while the BBC is cutting back.
And if Paramount and WBD withdraw their children’s channels in favour of streaming and Sky Kids becomes the last remaining pay TV children’s channel, don’t be surprised to see the live channel go free-to-air (with on-demand available to subscribers only).
And don’t be surprised if this happens ahead of the BBC’s charter renewal and Sky needs to emphasise its public service credentials. The launch of Sky Kids is more than a new channel launching. It’s a clever strategic move by Sky.
PICTURED: Sky Kids logo. COPYRIGHT: Sky plc.