You might think that YouTube has the kid video demographic locked down, particularly since it launched a dedicated video app for kids, but a company out of Brazil is aiming to challenge that asumption. And it’s putting another $15 million where it’s mouth is, too.
That company is Movile, a mobile app development firm responsible for a range of different services including Playkids, its video-meets-education app for young kids. Playkids, which was first launched two years ago, is getting the cash boost to develop new business ideas and features over the next nine to 12 months. (The money itself comes courtesy of Movile’s recent $40 million raise from Naspers.)
The $15 million matches the total of previous investments made by Sao Paulo-headquartered Movile, which acts as incubator to a range of different projects. The organization put $5 million into Playkids in March 2014, before adding a further $10 million later that August.
Movile — which operates a range of Latam-based services include iFood (food delivery), Superplayer (music streaming), and Rapiddo (a Fandago rival) — is putting serious focus on Playkids after the service made a breakthrough in numerous international markets over the past year. Playkids is global, but its premium content is available on iOS and Android in 27 countries worldwide. Movile said the service has clocked over one billion episodes played (in six languages) and it has been particularly successful in China and the U.S., where it has been the top ranked kids app (per App Annie data). It is also the overall top grossing children’s app in the world.
Initially billed as a video/TV app for kids, it has evolved beyond that to cover a range of different entertainment formats, including books, puzzles, games and audio. That varied array of content is how the service makes its money, basic features are available for free, with other — premium content — requiring users to pay for subscription-based access.
It isn’t just content for kids where Movile has develop Playkids, it has also branched out to offer new features designed for parents. That includes more obvious things like watch time limits and selecting specific videos, and interesting features such as messaging and a parental dashboard. The dashboard, as you’d think, gives parents an overview of their kids’ activities, while the messaging feature — called Rocket — lets them send short messages such as ‘brush your teeth’ or ‘tidy your room’ reminders via the service. Kids can respond with videos.
Rocket Messaging is initially available for the Apple Watch app only, but Eduardo Henrique — head of global expansion at PlayKids — told TechCrunch in an interview that the company will expand the feature into accompanying apps for regular iOS devices.
“We want to be a hub of educational entertainment,” Henrique said. “The idea of a passive experience where kids just watch videos is not exploring the technology can we can offer today. Kids can interact with the screen, play educational content, read music, and more.”
“This is first version of many things that we can create to bring parents to the platform. Our intention is to invest more in information for parents and tools for parents and kids,” the Brazilian added.
I test it with my two kids — aged four and six — and, to my surprise, Playkids was as popular as the (few) games which I let them play. The content is designed up kids up to the age of about four or five, and that showed as my youngest was most engaged while the elder found it all a little too easy.
Playkids expanded into China and most recently Japan in recent months. Henrique explained that these launches were its last for this year, and that now the team is focused on developing the technology and services to push the service on in its existing markets.
“Our challenge is to become largest platform for kids in the world,” he said. That goal could see Playkids become an independent business in its own right.
“We treat Playkids like a small company inside Movile — it has its own team but is also supported by Movile,” he added. “But we are thinking about spinning it out — maybe it will happen one day.”