Listen Up

Children’s podcasts have been popping up for a while now, including a few based on licensed IP. Almost a third of parents (32%) say they are very or somewhat likely to purchase a subscription to a paid podcast service for their child, according to a survey conducted by Morning Consult in November. Half of children who listen to podcasts do so weekly, and one-third daily, according to Kids Listen, which found that 89% of children who spend time with podcasts are aged 8 and under.

The pace of new podcast launches for kids seems to be picking up since last autumn, especially in the licensing space, with more IP-based examples, bigger players getting involved, and younger audiences including preschoolers being an increased focus. One driver of the burst in activity is parents’ need to give children something quiet, thought-provoking, and fun to do that does not rely on a screen. This is a motivation that intensified during the pandemic.

Here are a handful of recent happenings in the kids’ podcast space involving licensing-connected companies:

  • Netflix and Atypical Artists launched an original, six-episode fiction podcast called Rebel Robin: Surviving Hawkins. The full-cast production is a companion to A.R. Capetta’s novel, Stranger Things: Rebel Robin from Random House, the publishing licensee for Netflix’s Stranger Things TV series. The book and first podcast episode, both for teens, release simultaneously on June 29.
  • Sesame Workshop partnered with Headspace in a deal announced this month for a 12-episode podcast called Goodnight, World! The production is in Headspace’s Sleepcast format and uses meditation and mindfulness techniques to help kids relax for bed. Each episode includes a “wind-down story” narrated by a Sesame Street character, a “sleep journey” led by a Headspace Sleepcast reader, and a soothing soundscape tied to a favorite place like Big Bird’s nest. The new venture is a continuation of a deal between the two organizations, announced in spring 2020, that began with a series of six mindfulness videos.
  • Disney Channel released its first original scripted podcast, the seven-episode This Duckburg Life, based on Disney XD’s DuckTales, in March. It features DuckTales voice talent, including David Tennant and Margo Martindale, reprising their roles.
  • In November, Hasbro and its eOne division launched a 10-episode podcast series of stories inspired by popular episodes of Peppa Pig, with two English-language editions released globally every two weeks.
  • ViacomCBS launched podcasts based on a variety of its characters and shows last September, including SpongeBob Bingepants: The ReWatch, a production based on the worlds of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra, and a podcast tied to PAW Patrol.
  • In May, PBS Kids, along with PRX and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, announced the first six teams of creators selected for its podcast accelerator program. Each will create a podcast pilot in the hopes of getting a full-season order. All the program participants receive a $10,000 stipend for production and operational expenses, access to PRX’s podcast platform to distribute their own content, and training and resources.

While earlier examples of IP owners extending into kids’ podcasts include the likes of Cartoon Network, Marvel, and Pocket.watch, the frequency of launches has certainly accelerated since last fall. The podcast trend fits with the recent proliferation of audio-based content in general, propelled by the need to keep kids away from their screens for a part of each day. The audio landscape includes applications ranging from child-friendly music and audio story players to musical recordings, as well as podcasts.

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