The book market is the most thriving business within children’s media, whilst TV production is struggling due to competition from the internet, according to speakers at a Westminster Media Forum conference yesterday (6th May).
At the ‘Next steps for children’s media – trends, business models and regulation’ event, Jon Watts, director of research organisation MTM London, said publishing is in “robust health”.
“Some publishers are reinventing themselves with other business outlets but in general physical books are doing very well,” he said.
Parents, especially those in the 5-7 age bracket, buy lots of children’s print books but are reluctant to let their offspring spend too much time on tablets or mobiles, which ultimately benefits the publishing industry, he added.
Conversely, the children’s TV industry is not doing so well. Watts said the BBC is the only company that now invests properly in independent production companies. Some investment is coming from Netflix and Amazon but “no-one knows if they can create the next blockbuster”.
Broadcasting is “less important” for the younger generation, who blur the lines between social media and TV,” he added. For them, YouTube is a favourite brand along with Netflix.
Cally Poplak, m.d. of Egmont UK, agreed that the print book market for children is “thriving”, claiming that three-quarters of young people aged up to 17 prefer reading print to reading digitally.
“Reading in print is a highly emotional experience. It’s an expression of love for parents. It’s calming and bonding,” she said. “They have embraced digital content but they are anxious about screen time.”
However, publishing does face some challenges, she warned, with one of the biggest being discoverability. “There are 14 million adults buying children’s books in the UK and half will always choose a book that’s come from TV, film or the internet. How do we connect readers and the book?”
Watts said the market will become more hits driven.
“The big stuff is getting bigger,” he said. “The top authors and franchises in publishing now account for a bigger slice of the pie. Some people call this the ‘Hollywoodisation’ of the market.”