NZ On Air has announced a $1.5 million commitment to a new platform for video and interactive content for kids. The funds will cover the people and technology to set up and run the site for the first year.
The currently untitled site will be developed in conjunction with TVNZ, which will contribute the back end, using the tech behind the recently-revamped TVNZ OnDemand site. The site will be ad-free and won’t be TVNZ-branded, which is important given that NZ On Air intends it to be a destination for some if not all the future online content it funds for kids aged 5 – 9.
It might also help gain buy-in from industry and trust from parents who remember some of TVNZ’s previous decisions about digital kids’ content – such as ditching government-funded kids’ channel TVNZ 6 in 2011, a year before its funding expired, shifting a two-hour block of kids’ content from TVNZ 6 to 7 – and then launching Kidzone 24 on Sky, using much of the content it culled from TVNZ 6. TVNZ replaced 6 with ad-funded youth-focused channel U, which it dumped in 2013 for not meeting commercial expectations,
The concept for the new kid-focused online presence has been developed with the support and involvement of the NZ Children’s Screen Trust (Kidsonscreen), which has been advocating for home for childrne’s content since 2013. when it presented a Big Screen Symposium session on the issue. Kidsonscreen chair Janette Howe called the new project a nimble solution to the challenges of discoverability and creating a safe, trustworthy destination for kids’ content.
The inclusion of principles from Kidsonscreen’s Children’s Media Rights Declaration in the Charter of Principles was welcomed by Howe. “We look forward to seeing a range of content for children,” Howe said, “that reflects their diversity and interests – news, factual, comedy, drama, science and games. We hope that exciting ideas will be brought to the table by new and emerging content creators.”
Howe will sit on the advisory panel that will oversee the content curation for the site according to the governing Charter of Principles. TVNZ and NZ On Air will also be represented on the panel.
NZ On Air is in the process of issuing invitations to creators of kids content to attend a workshop on developing content for the site. The agency’s September funding round (application deadline 10 August) will be the first targeting kids content under its new platform-neutral funding strategy.
Going forward the agency may fund some content specifically for the new site, but will also fund for other services with the expectation that – at some point – the content will also be made available via the new site. There may also be variations or additional content hosted in different places to maximise the reach of the content, although NZ On Air and TVNZ are clear that they hope the new venue will become a go-to destination for kids.
NZ On Air CEO Jane Wrightson said, “This initiative will ensure our children can easily find multi-media content they can relate to, reflecting them and their environment, in their own accent. This is a timely and crucial intervention for children’s media in New Zealand and part of a fundamental change to the way we do things at NZ On Air.”
Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage Maggie Barry and Minister for Communications Simon Bridges welcomed the news in a government announcement. Bridges credited the roll out of UFB for making the internet more accessible, while Barry noted the project “will ensure our culture is alive and well in screen content for our youngest viewers”,
The government release also promised the site would be “easy to navigate and be commercial free with a huge range of content”. NZ On Air has not received any additional funding from government for the initiative.
The new site is intended to go live around March 2018.