London-based startup and Netflix for small children Hopster is on the verge of launching its unlimited TV content app, the company announced today, with a UK iOS App Store debut planned for November. The app will provide subscription-based all-you-can-watch access to shows aimed specifically at the 2 to 6 set, spanning 800 titles and including some of the most iconic kids characters ever created.
Hopster is announcing its partner arrangements ahead of the launch, which include deals with Nelvana, DHX Media and Millimages. These partnerships bring streaming video on demand rights to Hopster for a number of popular preschooler titles, including Babar, Max & Ruby, SuperWhy, Madeline, Paddington Bear and 64 Zoo Lane. That’s just the start, according to Hopster, which will reveal additional content over the course of the next few months.
While Hopster has a Netflix-like content distribution and access model, it also incorporates a key educational platform angle that sets it apart from other online streaming video services. That’s what makes Hopster more than just a competitor for a subsection of Netflix’s or LOVEfilm’s larger library; it incorporates interactive learning games which are tailored to a child’s viewing habits and history. Those games and activities comprise a curriculum that Hopster says develops along with the child, which has been created in line with guidelines set out by the UK Early Years Foundation and built by educators.
“We believe that kids and families are different so there is a need for services, like Hopster, that are designed just for kids,” Hopster CEO Nick Walters explained via email. “For example, Hopster has defined a user experience just for preschool kids – easy to navigate, very little text, full of surprising and delightful activity. We also make really smart use of interactive games through a ‘two screens in one’ experience, making it stimulating and active like no other TV service does.”
All Hopster activity is also funnelled into “smart reports” that are made available to parents of children using the app, though the app itself is designed to be able to be used by a child completely independent of any adult. It’s a completely ad-free service, and the only payment throughout the app is the one for the recurring subscription, which means kids can’t accidentally rack up in-app purchase charges.
Hopster’s founding team includes Walters, a former Nickelodeon executive, as well as Sander Striker of Vdio and Joost, Mahesh Ramachandra off Galleon Entertainment and Bradley Archer, also ex-Nickelodeon. The team has ample experience with kids content and with streaming media services, and is backed by an advisory board which has experience in kids educational publishing and preschooler content.
The entire concept of Hopster is based on the realization that kids are inevitably drawn to the digital devices in or lives, and that they’re also very much interested in streaming content. Walters and his team wanted to find a way to scratch that itch for kids with a guilt-free solution that would also provide useful, genuine education value instead of just mindless (or haphazardly educational) entertainment.
Drawing audiences away from kid-friendly sections of prevailing streaming giants like Netflix will be tough, since parents get something additional out of that subscription, too, but there might just be room for a solution aimed specifically at the preschool educational vertical, and Hopster definitely has the right content to see if there is.