Worry-free TV: How Kidoodle.TV® sparked a family-friendly international streaming revolution

- Calgary, AlbertaCanada

"A child sitting on a couch taps the screen of his tablet to start an episode of an animated children’s show."
In just over a decade, Kidoodle.TV has grown into one of the world’s most popular streaming services for children, offering over 40,000 episodes of programs across more than 160 countries and territories.

In the early 2010s, 2 Calgary entrepreneurs who believed that traditional TV and video distribution was headed toward an internet streaming revolution founded A Parent Media Co. Inc. (APMC), with the family-friendly entertainment platform Kidoodle.TV® as its flagship offering.

Considered one of the world’s most popular streaming services for children, Kidoodle.TV is committed to making the internet a safe place for children. All programming and advertising are hand-picked and carefully vetted by the company’s team to ensure content is age-appropriate and aligned with parents’ expectations for quality content.

Over the last few years, the Kidoodle.TV business line has won multiple international awards and experienced explosive global growth. Valued at more than $600 million in 2022, Kidoodle.TV now offers over 40,000 episodes of programs across more than 160 countries and territories.

So, what was it that catapulted this once-small, family-focused company to such enormous heights? The National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) is proud to have played a part in its incredible evolution over the last decade.

Progressing the platform

When Lynn Sutherland first heard of APMC, it was at a local pitch competition in Calgary, Alberta in 2013.

“I’d been working in the innovation field for a number of years when I saw the APMC presentation about Kidoodle.TV. It made me think back to when I had young kids and how I’d always thought it would be great to have a kids’ entertainment station with content that parents could trust,” Lynn says. The presentation stuck in her mind for many months afterwards.

About a year later, after joining NRC IRAP as an industrial technology advisor, Lynn reached out to the APMC Kidoodle.TV team to discuss their pursuits and goals, and what they needed to grow.

“Since the earliest days of the company, Lynn believed in us and helped us identify and solve key technical challenges while also providing advice and support as we explored different content, distribution and revenue models. She’s been a key part of helping us get to our current success.”

Neil Gruninger, President of APMC
 
"Mike and Neil sit at a table in one of their boardrooms in front of a wall of TVs showing some of the children’s shows broadcast by Kidoodle.TV."
(left to right): Mike Lowe, CEO of APMC and Neil Gruninger, President of APMC

One of APMC’s first projects supported by NRC IRAP allowed it to grow its team so the company could build out and fine tune the Kidoodle.TV platform. APMC created the Family Moments feature, which allowed customers to upload, stream and share videos from their devices to their Kidoodle.TV family accounts.

Additionally, with NRC IRAP’s support and guidance, APMC was able to evolve their technology to be accessible on multiple end-user devices. Today, customers can use Kidoodle.TV on more than 1,000 different products, including iOS and Android, Macs and PCs as well as streaming media boxes such as Roku, Apple TV and Fire TV.

A pivot and a growth spurt

In its earlier days, Kidoodle.TV was available by paid subscription video on demand (SVOD). This business model provided customers with unlimited, commercial-free, age-appropriate children’s programming. Despite the low cost and Safe Streaming™ marketing angle however, the offer was not getting enough traction.

APMC determined that, despite audiences clearly wanting quality content, parents were not necessarily able or willing to pay for a subscription. In response, the company made the strategic decision to develop a new type of video-on-demand platform—one that would be free to users but with occasional commercials, a service known as advertising video on demand (AVOD).

Creating such a complex technical system while overhauling the existing monetization model would be an enormous undertaking. But with guidance and support from NRC IRAP, the company was able to pilot its new business model by first changing just one channel from SVOD to AVOD. The pilot showed that families and kids liked the AVOD option.

Today, Kidoodle.TV operates via a hybrid subscription and ad-supported model. While SVOD remains an option, most viewers choose the free subscription, making quality kids programming accessible to more families than ever before. The change proved so successful that, within the first 60 days of switching from SVOD to AVOD, Kidoodle.TV increased its revenue substantially. Since the switch in 2018, company revenue has more than doubled each year.

A new solution yields a new business line

Following its switch to the hybrid model, APMC realized there were few viable industry solutions that would allow them to deliver and track safe, family-friendly advertising for its niche audience. Programmatic advertising, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to scan and source ads for placement in real time, was an option at the time, but AI wasn’t yet mature enough to effectively interpret suitability for target audiences.

As a result, and with support from NRC IRAP, the company expanded its team to develop and integrate technology that would meet their new advertising needs. APMC added a real-time human layer to the technology that would make it possible to review and interact with programmatic markets. Named Safe Exchange™, this proprietary solution not only serves as a “digital net” to automatically catch certain ads, but also requires moderators to approve or block each one on the basis of appropriateness.

Within a year’s time, APMC had been able to produce a solution for Kidoodle.TV and refine it to create a marketable product for a business-to-business clientele. The product is now being deployed as a service to several types of companies—from publishing companies looking for monetization opportunities to platforms seeking ad moderation solutions.

“The support that NRC IRAP provided us was very important in terms of enabling us to scale and build a new business line.”

Mike Lowe, CEO of APMC

Further refining the business

In addition to funding, NRC IRAP has also provided APMC with advisory services over the last several years to support its ongoing technical and business development efforts. These services involved an advisory workshop on using software-as-a-service metrics to build corporate revenues and investigating the possibility of using new technologies to better track and control ad placements.

NRC IRAP also coordinated the delivery of a session on cyber security best practices guidance for the executive team to help APMC protect its most sensitive data, personally identifiable information, client information and more.

“Throughout our history, NRC IRAP has provided us with value in many different ways,” says the company’s president, Neil Gruninger. “In addition to the R&D funding support we received, our industrial technology advisor has been very supportive in talking through ideas, the build-out of our technology and the way we practise as a company.”

Growing up

Since APMC’s first project with NRC IRAP, the company has grown from 8 employees to over 100, experienced an increase in new viewers of more than 3,000% and seen Kidoodle.TV revenue grow beyond expectations. Now, armed with a brand-new business line, APMC continues pursuing new opportunities for growth.

“While Kidoodle.TV started solely as a streaming service for kids, APMC has grown its offering and the company by leaps and bounds,” says CEO Mike Lowe. “In addition to support from NRC IRAP, the company credits much of its success to its ability to be agile and seize upon new opportunities to make its product bigger and better.”

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