PBS KIDS is ready to take over your kids’ TV. The company this morning announced the launch of its own streaming stick, called the PBS KIDS Plug & Play, which delivers a combination of on-demand video, sing-alongs, and games, as well as access to the PBS KIDS’ live stream when connected to Wi-Fi.
The content selection is updated regularly, at no additional cost. There’s also no ongoing subscription to access anything provided through the Plug & Play device – beyond the initial purchase price of $49.99 for the dongle and remote itself, it’s free.
The dongle is designed to be kid-friendly, and looks like a little toy racecar. However, since this is meant to be plugged into the back or side of the TV into the HDMI port, making the dongle look like a toy was probably a bit unnecessary. If anything, it could encourage little ones to pull it out and play with it, which parents may not want. And its boxy shape could make it difficult to fit in all TVs. (For that same reason, Google had redesigned its Chromecast years ago to no longer be a stick, but a dongle that hangs off a bendable cord.)
PBS KIDS, however, has worked around this issue by including an HDMI extension cord in the box.
The Plug & Play also ships with a matching remote, which allows kids to play included games: “Rail Riders,” “Sound Box,” and “Road Trip Adventure.” The games are meant to be fun as well as educational – like all of PBS KIDS’ content.
In terms of video, the device ships with over 100 hours of on-demand video and sing-a-longs pre-loaded onto the stick, which means you could use it anywhere – even if you’re without a network connection. It will also work outside the U.S., but it wouldn’t be able to accessing the streaming component.
If you hook it up the internet, the dongle can live stream the new PBS KIDS 24/7 channel. The company introduced its live TV service at the beginning of the year, in partnership with over 100 PBS stations who carry it on television, in addition to the stream available on the web and through the PBS KIDS mobile app.
At the time of its launch, the company explained that its goal with offering the stream was to continue its mission of reaching children in lower-income households who are more likely to rely on TV for educational content, as well as to reach those in homes where the family’s only internet access was available through mobile devices.
The Plug & Play stick will offer access to local stations in all markets, and will include the PBS KIDS underwriting and station breaks, as on TV.
Whether or not there’s a need for a dedicated streaming stick with children’s content remains a question. Most larger streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, have fairly robust “kids” sections with age-appropriate content. The difference is that much of that content has entertainment value only, and is not educational.
“We know families are busy and on-the-go, and value spending time together whenever they can,” said PBS VP of Brand Licensing, Dawn Ciccone, in a statement about the device’s launch. “We have also learned from research that when parents are engaged with their children in activities related to their favorite TV shows or games, children learn more. PBS KIDS Plug & Play furthers PBS KIDS’ mission of providing high-quality, educational content for children anytime, anywhere, turning any TV into an interactive and fun learning resource.”
The hardware device was developed by Ematic, which also earlier produced the company’s tablet, the PBS KIDS Playtime Pad. It offers 16 GB of Flash Storage, 1 GB memory, 5V/2A power supply, micro USB and SD card slots, and support for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The device ships with a micros USB cable, HDMI extension cord, and 2 AAA batteries.
PBS KIDS says that 100 percent of the net proceeds from device sales will be returned to support PBS KIDS’ ongoing mission. The $50 device is available on Walmart.com now, and will be in Walmart stores by May 24. Other retailers will offer it later this year.