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Inside the launch of Sky Kids, the linear ad-free TV channel


By John McCarthy, Opinion Editor

May 10, 2023 | 7 min read

Linear TV still serves a vital role for kids, and the Pay TV broadcaster’s set to fill the void.

Sky Kids

A sample of the Sky Kids’ idents

In February, Sky Kids launched as an ad-free, linear TV channel almost at the same time CITV, one of the UK’s biggest children’s TV channels, went exclusively online.

At the time, Jennifer Batty, European head of content acquisition at Samsung Ads at the time cited Ofcom’s 2022 findings that 78% of UK children watch TV streaming services versus 47% watching live TV. The habits don’t lie, but did they tell the full story?

The latest channel launch from Sky is gambling on the dissatisfaction with the streaming viewer experience from both adults and children. Linear works best for children and Sky’s keen to prove it.

Speaking to The Drum, Olivia Browne, marketing director of entertainment at Sky, laid out three insights from its rigorous customer research on the launch of the 24-hour programming.

  1. “Parents wanted a channel that has quality content, is a safe environment for kids and won’t bump up against inappropriate content.”

  2. “With on-demand, kids tend to watch things on loop. Parents don’t have to endure any more Peppa Pig marathons.”

  3. “Sometimes parents just want to put their kids in front of a TV and do other things. On-demand has the challenge of having to reset and play stuff.”

Another must-have was that it was ad-free. So much of the children’s content space is saturated with ads, be it for toys or, until recent years, HFSS foods.

“We wanted the ad-free, safe environment of a Cbeebies with the franchise content and the entertainment of a Nickelodeon.”

But for the channel to be ad-free, it had to be funded. That is partially by Sky customers as part of a subscription but coming in on the ground floor was Crayola, a brand that sponsored the launch campaign after being approached by Sky.

“Partnerships work best when there is a synergy of values, and unleashing kids’ creativity and imagination was Crayola’s brand promise. From our perspective, that really mirrored particularly one of the stands for our channel.” That strand in question is the channel’s ‘Make, Do, Learn’ ethos.

Such partnerships are proving more popular, advertisers are enjoying the regular exposure they help from helping to deliver shows and TV verticals over the ad break, which some viewers could see as an interruption.

Marketing a channel

Sky Creative Agency created all the assets for Sky Kids. Chief among them was a series of idents, contextually relevant to the time of day (rise and shine versus sleepy time, for example).

But after all that ident design work, there is change ahead. As part of a competition, Sky VIP invited kids to design an identity for the channel. The winner will soon be announced and will receive airplay, further hitting home the creativity the partnership was to inspire. There were some 535 entries.

The idents: “Reflect the personality of the channel but also offer little moments of respite too. We needed to be in tune with parents and kids throughout the day.”

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To raise awareness of the channel launch, Sky first informed customers of the new added benefit to the kids package using owned channels.

Browne says the creative had to land with both partners and kids which was a difficult task.

But as well as a retention tool, the channel launch was to serve as an attractive force for Sky and therefore it had to go beyond its own borders. Mumsnet served as a “perfect” strategic partner in this instance.

But experiential marketing was also favored to get the word out. Large sculptures of artwork of children’s TV characters Morph, Miffy and Where’s Wally appeared in London during the half term.

Where's Wally Wall

And finally, influencers, which Sky has been bullish on since the launch of Sky Glass. A kids-style Gogglebox format was concocted to review the content available at launch, once again putting the audience at the forefront of the marketing.

The channel is available to Sky customers, as part of the Sky Kids package for £6 a month. Members of the streaming service Now can access it with the £9.99 Entertainment Membership.

Sign up for the Media Agency Briefing for a weekly through the biggest questions facing the industry. And check out more from The Drum’s latest Deep Dive, where we’ve been demystifying data & privacy for marketers in 2023.

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