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Where the eyeballs are

Despite TV hanging on as the overall preferred platform for kids’ viewing, YouTube is now the #1 source of content for our kids according to a new study released by NZ On Air today.

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35% of kids access YouTube daily, according to the Children’s Media Use Study: How our children engage with media today report, released today. The most popular TV channel, TV2, is watched by 32% of kids. The study, commissioned by NZ On Air, revealed that 88% of the 6-14 age group watch TV daily; 66% use the internet; and 36% listen to the radio.

One bit of bad news for broadcasters was that only 7% of kids surveyed used On demand sites, although those services do little to encourage use.

Speaking to Australian broadcasters two weeks ago, transmedia wiz Jeff Gomez noted that few of the broadcasters were going where their viewers (and potential viewers) were hanging out online. NZ broadcasters have mostly behaved in the same way, and achieved the same results. If you park your bus on a little-travelled side street, you shouldn’t be surprised when hardly anybody gets on.

The data in the report largely confirmed anecdotal reports and observations of kids’ behaviour: with viewing as with everything else kids are as impatient as ever, want what they want when they want it and where they want it, and now they have ways to get that. If you’re not there as a content provider, you won’t be missed by the kids – although parents still want their kids exposed to local content.

The NZ Children’s Screen Trust’s Janette Howe welcomed the report, saying, “It’s encouraging that we now have data to show how our kids are consuming media and how that compares with behaviour internationally.”

While the impending demise of TV has oft been predicted, it’s not unfair to say that scheduled broadcast is a diminishing part of overall content consumption, and that’s not a situation that’s going to reverse.

72% of kids have access to a tablet; 48% have access to a smartphone. Unsurprisingly the numbers are lower in low income households, but – for those that have access – online is where they are.

Howe noted that it was increasingly important for content providers to put content where kids were, and to make it discoverable, rather than expect kids to seek it out in venues chosen for broadcasters’ convenience.

“Local content for children is a key part of NZ On Air’s mandate. But clearly, what they want and how they want to consume media is changing at pace as technology and platforms evolve. Our challenge is to ensure we are funding what children want, and ensuring it is available where they are consuming media,” said NZ On Air Chief Executive Jane Wrightson in the media release accompanying the launch.

90% of parents surveyed agreed kids needed to be able to watch local shows that reflected them and their world. NZ On Air will now be using the research to review its children’s strategy and consult with content-makers and broadcasters.

6-14 is a pretty hefty age span to lump together, and the study notes several examples of changing behaviour as children grow. The number of kids accessing content online reach a “tipping point” at age 11, after which the study notes a significant increase in the use of YouTube and FaceBook – this despite FB’s terms precluding users below the age of 13.

Traditional gender models are preserved with older boys going for more of the adventurous and dumb material, while more girls stick with the relatively safer confines of TV2 programming. Racial stereotypes are also preserved with confirmation that Asian kids have better access to gadgetry such as tablets.

Unsurprisingly, the report also noted “significant differences in media behaviour between children in the three main metropolitan centres (e.g. more YouTube and less TV2), compared to those in provincial cities and towns/rural areas (more TV and radio)”. The quality or otherwise of NZ internet continues to be a factor.

Last week, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) released two reports on kids’ viewing habits, one based on historical data from ratings agency OzTam, one contemporary and largely based on interviews.

Aussie producers’ organisation SPA welcomed the reports, using them to make the case for continued funding and regulation to ensure Australian broadcasters “continue to meet the expectations of Australian children and parents that there will be quality, age appropriate content on our television channels”.

Here, the Broadcasting Standards Authority released a statement in response to the NZ On Air study, saying, “It’s great to see parents are proactively helping their children navigate their way through the rapidly increasing options offered by TV and the internet.”

NZ On Air’s full report is available for download here.

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