I recently read an article online about a new digital start up company called Pocket.watch. As I started to look further into the company I realized there is a lot to unpack and discuss. And while I’m nearly 30 I always find kid’s media intriguing. What makes kids enjoy certain stories and do kids know when they’re being pandered to? We’ll dig into that topic down the line, but today lets look at this new company, where it came from, what it might mean for the industry, and where it could go.
-Who and What?-
Pocket.watch intends to be a new online outlet for media geared towards children between 2-11 years of age. It comes to us from the mind of Chris M. Williams who has a background in both online distribution and children’s entertainment. Previously he worked as the chief audience officer of Maker Studios and GM of Disney Online Originals. As the CEO of Pocket.watch he has already taken major steps in recruiting talented people into the fold. This includes former head of Nickelodeon and HLN Albie Hecht as chief content officer and well known entertainment lawyer Jon Moonves as chief strategy officer. What we see here is a trio who are not only seasoned professionals, but have a their fingers on the pulse of kid’s entertainment. One coming from the Mouse House and the other coming from Viacom’s green slime producing subsidiary. The group has already raised six million dollars in funding from high profile Hollywood talent including (but not limited to) Robert Downey Jr., Jon Landau, and Leslie Moonves (brother of Jon Moonves). Their goal is to start creating, acquiring, and distributing online entertainment both short and long form to compete with Disney and Nickelodeon. Ambitious but not out of the realm of possibility.
-Changing Viewer Habits-
This is a major factor working in Pocket.watch’s favor. It’s a fact that over the past few years how kids consume content has changed greatly. The Internet has made accessing media in all forms easier and offered a wider variety. Kids no longer have to sit down at a television between the hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to watch a block of programming geared towards them. Mobile devices and streaming have made it possible to watch in the viewer’s timeframe rather than what some suit assumes are the peak hours of watching. More consumers are cancelling their cable and satellite subscriptions and swapping in ‘skinny bundle’ packages from companies like Netflix and Amazon. People are looking for cheaper options that are available to them 24/7. With Pocket.watch tapping into this trend they’re stepping into the forefront of new media from the get go rather than being dragged into it. When you cater to the desires of customers they’ll be happy and willing to use your product. Smart move.
-Talent and their Treatment-
Just a few days ago it was announced that Pocket.watch had signed popular Youtube creators HobbyKidsTV as one of their first creative partners. HobbyKidsTV currently has nearly 2.4 million subscribers and gets around 200 million views monthly over ten separate channels. This built in fanbase will be a big coup for the company as they begin. Odds are people who come to Pocket.watch to see HobbyKidsTV will explore the other videos on the site. And looking at the state of Youtube it’s good for creators. In the past few months there have been problems brewing. Youtubers have seen profits shrinking from ad revenue as advertisers begin to dictate where they want ads placed and avoiding ‘controversial’ subjects and videos. This in turn has led to a lot of creators upset and looking at other options to make money. Some are getting video sponsorship, selling merchandise, or going to other websites to host their content. Pocket.watch has offered HobbyKidsTV an equity stake in the company. This is big for three reasons: 1. Creators will have a voice in the company and be part of the decision making process. 2. Having a share in the company means creators will get a larger cut of profits. 3. Stake in the company means the creators will have a deeper investment in it’s success. In a time when the collaborative spirit of online content is diminishing it’s surprising that a company wants vested interest from it’s employees.
-Issues in the Past-
As I stated previously, Williams and Hecht have previous experience with the major giants of kids entertainment. Williams with Disney/Maker Studios and Hecht at Viacom/Nickelodeon. And in the meantime issues have been brewing at both of those companies. Many former partners of Maker Studios have expressed displeasure with the tactics the company used. Whether it be taking a surprisingly large portion ad revenue or claiming a large slice of intellectual ownership over videos. And Viacom has been in turmoil since Sumner Redstone resigned as executive chairman of CBS and Viacom. With all this there has been lay-offs and talk of potential lay-offs at both companies. With their knowledge of whats going on, Williams and Hecht have insight into who they can woo over to Pocket.watch in more lucrative and stable positions. And with people uncertain about their futures at a company they’d be more willing to jump ship and join up with Pocket.watch.
-My One Fear-
While everything is sounding innovative and optimistic about where Pocket.watch will go there is something that still worries me. A while back I wrote an article on the up and coming website Vessel. I concluded that my major fear was that the company would end up getting bought out and absorbed into Youtube. While Youtube wasn’t the one to acquire Vessel (that was Verizon) it did end up getting shut down mere months after I wrote the article. In said article I stressed that it’s important to have healthy competition in the marketplace. But in the end if the people in charge of Pocket.watch get offered a large sum of money from another company they’d be foolish to turn it down. For the sake of the consumer and creators I hope Williams, Hecht, and Moonves are in this to change the market rather than building something only to make money selling it off to the highest bidder. Fingers crossed.
These are my thoughts on Pocket.watch, but as usual what are yours? Do you think this company is taking a major step in launching an entertainment empire built on innovation? Is kids entertainment in need of more variety? Are there any parents reading who have an opinion? If you’re interested you can follow me on Twitter @sdfilmthoughts for more. And as always, thanks for reading!