BBC Children’s – Riding Two Horses

Director, BBC North and BBC Children's

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In Tony Hall’s speech on Monday, he talked of riding two horses - serving those who have adopted the internet, while at the same time making sure that those who want to carry on watching and listening to traditional channels continue to be properly served, too. Nowhere will this be more important than in Children’s.

Today, we’re celebrating 30 years of BBC Children’s presentation. That’s 30 years since Philip Schofield and Gordon the Gopher took over the BroomCupboard and began the live, on-screen links that‘ve been a kids' telly staple ever since.

We’ll celebrate with a TV special, broadcast live from MediaCityUK on CBBC, which kids will be able to watch for 30 days afterwards on BBC iPlayer. And they can see clips relating to the show on our CBBC YouTube channel and CBBC website too.

30 years ago, we had only limited slots on BBC One and Two. Now, kids can enjoy CBBC and CBeebies content any time, on a range of TV and online platforms. It’s fair to say that a lot’s changed – and it’s only going to keep on changing.

As we look towards the future it’s vital that we keep up, not just with what kids want, but how they want it, so we have the right content available in the right places.

Crucially, we have to allow and encourage kids to engage with us, so we’re part of what they watch and do online. And as the UK’s only Public Service Broadcaster for children, in a sea of non-public service and international content, it’s our duty to really understand what they want – for us it's audience first, rather than digital first.

Right now, by far the most popular place for children to watch our content is the good old-fashioned TV. In a recent survey, 86% of kids said it was still their favourite screen to watch programmes. And 63% of children still watch programmes when they’re scheduled on TV. They still love comedies, cartoons, news, drama, live action, magazine shows and game shows as much as we did when we were kids. And we love them too.

As long as kids and parents continue to watch our output on our TV channels, we’ll continue to put our programmes there. CBBC and CBeebies are the most-loved channels in the UK for their target age groups and we’re incredibly proud of that.

But we need to do more.

Kids already enjoy our content in different ways. And it’s really important that we make sure they can, because with more than 30 UK kids TV channels to compete with and a mind-boggling array of digital platforms designed for kids, media consumption habits for children are among the most complex of any group out there.

Choice and control

It’s not just the huge amount of choice kids have that’s changing our world, but the explosion of hand-held, touch screen device ownership. It’s given kids more control than ever before – and led to less bargaining over the nation’s telly remotes!

Kids don’t simply want to replace long-form drama with short-form nano-bites of content. They want to be able to access a whole range of long and short form content, games, stories and creative tools. They want to be able to find stuff easily, access it on any screen and be able to pick up where they left off when they’re on the school bus.

That’s why I’m really excited about our plans for a new children’s service – iPlay.

iPlay would not only allow our youngest audience to access to all the children’s content they know and love, but it would also enable us to open up the whole BBC more widely than ever before to children.

Because it’s not just our CBBC and CBeebies content that appeals to kids. Millions of our audience are huge fans of a long and colourful list of content from across the BBC, like Match of The Day, Strictly Come Dancing the Bake Off, the Sewing Bee and a whole lot more. And there’s so much more we do that children and their parents would enjoy if only they knew about it – and if it was safe for them to explore without fear of bumping into something scary or worrying.

We want iPlay to be so much more than a children’s iPlayer. We’re looking to create a one-stop-shop that brings the content and functionality from our existing TV channels, iPlayer and websites into a single, interactive platform. A more sophisticated way of delivering content to kids, however they want it.

Since 1922, the BBC has led the way in children’s media, with an ambition and pioneering tradition that’s inspired, educated informed and entertained kids for 90 years. With our trusted high-quality content and mix of genres, created in new and exciting formats, and the development of a platform as ambitious as iPlay, we’re hoping to inspire them for the next 90 too.

Alice Webb is Director, BBC Children's

  • Discover more about our plans for the BBC over the next years on the Inside the BBC website. 

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