“It comes down to programming and how we try to break ourselves apart from Cartoon Network, Nick, and Disney,” says Kabillion President David Di Lorenzo
Facing an increasingly crowded kids entertainment market, cable network and OTT service Kabillion packs its content library with a mix of retro titles that both kids and their parents can enjoy.
From 90s cartoon “Bobby’s World” to newer episodes of “Pokemon” and “Transformers,” Kabillion’s lineup aims to entertain both parents and their kids, creating a friendly environment that both families and advertisers can enjoy. It’s this family-oriented approach that helps the company compete against the likes of YouTube, says Kabillion president David Di Lorenzo.
Di Lorenzo talked with TheWrap about this strategy and how the company is widening its focus to distribute content via smartphones. He also touches on declining cable subscriptions and what it means for the company’s future.
How does Kabillion plan to compete in a space where digital competitors are increasing kids programming?
Our position in regards to how we compete in the space is you have the subscription based services, Netflix and Hulu, which have a pretty big kids presence, as well as the Disney+ service coming on board. And then you got WarnerMedia, which will be a big presence assuming they are bundling in Cartoon Network. And YouTube is definitely a juggernaut. But where we differentiate ourselves is that we’re a free service, so we’re ad-supported. That kind of breaks us away from the Netflix and Hulu of the world.
Then with regards to YouTube, I think the challenge for them has been concerns with the safety of the platform from a kid’s perspective. They’ve had a couple of hiccups over time. We completely control our ad inventory. It’s all kids safe and family-friendly advertising. So that’s where we find our differentiation point, from being non- subscription-based and then providing a safe, controlled environment. And then really it comes down to programming and how we try to break ourselves apart from Cartoon Network, Nick, and Disney.
How do you do that?
What we’ve done is taken a two-prong strategy with bringing some retro titles like “Bobby’s World” or “Gumby” to try and capture the young adults that maybe have kids now. And then we take past seasons of series that are still running with new seasons on Nick or Disney like “Pokemon” or “Transformers.” For example, we’re going to be launching the original season of “Bakugan,” which just started a new season on Cartoon Network. So we kind of draft off of new series that are still present and that kids are watching, so that if they’re engaged in a particular show, then they can find additional content on our platform.
And then we’ve also done a pretty good job of finding exclusive content. I mean, the animation is a global business, and we’ve got shows that are produced in Singapore, Korea, Japan, Brazil. So we do go out and find international titles that are exclusive for our platform.
Additionally, about 35% of our programming is original content and the other 65% is stuff like “Yu-Gi-Oh,” “Pokemon,” etc. that you can find other places. Kids are accessing content when they want to access it and watching it wherever they find it.
What steps has Kabillion taken to have a presence in the places where kids and parents of young children gravitate?
So we’ve got two over-the-top apps on Roku and on Fire TV, which is where cord cutters and cord nevers are going to stream content. And I can tell you that Roku has been a very strong platform for us and our viewership is growing pretty significantly there. We’re seeing a 25% month-over-month growth through this year, and we’ve been on the platform for over 18 months now.
I guess the one sort space where we’re not really penetrating right now is mobile. But we do have a roadmap to have a mobile app, which we’re hoping to launch in the early part of next year and that’ll also be an ad-supported app. We’ve found that there’s a large audience that’s looking for free content and advertisers are definitely moving more into some of these spaces.
Considering a majority of Kabillion’s viewers are kids with no buying power, is it difficult to find advertisers for the platform?
There has been a lot of studies done with regards to co-viewing being on the rise. We also get a lot of feedback from parents via our website, and recently we’ve been reaching out to mommy blogs and getting some really good feedback from parents, as well as bloggers in terms of content and how they’re watching it. But really most of the advertisers we’re working with are the Hasbro’s and the Mattel’s of the world and that’s all kid-centric advertising.
And kids are big influencers now in the household. I think families are more collaborative in terms of how they approach buying products in the home. I’ve even seen some studies where they’ve said that kids even have a say in the family vehicle. So I think the dynamics in families have changed pretty progressively over the past decade.
In addition to your digital business, Kabillion also is available in over 60 million households via cable. Does the current decline in pay-TV subscribers worry you?
That’s been a trend now for a couple of years. But I think there’s moving and shifting parts in this business that there’s enough eyeballs for everybody to coexist in some way. Are we going to continue to see erosion? Possibly. But at the end of the day, what a lot of people don’t talk about is that linear networks are still producing a ton of really great content. It seems that everyone is focused on the latest Netflix release, but you look even across ABC, NBC and CBS, they still produce great content and a lot of it. And then there is still FX and all the other cable networks. There’s a lot of great content being produced to cost linear television that’s being supported through, you know, cable TV.