Mobile talk TV for tots the latest move in multimedia universe

Tiny tot broadcaster Treehouse is debuting its live-action series This is Emily Yeung with a curious six-year-old guide on mobile August 14- three weeks before its television premiere September 4.

It’s part of a growing attempt to connect with younger audiences who are more likely to be out and about than home sitting in front of the family TV.

“The idea is to reach people whenever and however they want to reach us,” says Lucie Lalumiere, vice-president of interactive programming for Corus Television, whose popular Treehouse network is focused on programming for kids under seven.

“One of our top markets is kids,” said Lalumiere. “And kids, as you know, embrace new technology.”

Industry watchers say this is aimed squarely at Mom and Dad. It’s not designed to create a landscape of preschoolers glued to their own cellphones, only to get parents to hand over their phones.

“Television is often a babysitter in the home, why not a babysitter on the phone?” said Maria Amoroso, who analyses wireless market strategies in Canada and the united States for the Boston-based Yankee Group.

“Ultimately the parent is the purchaser, the parent makes the buying decision,” said Amoroso.

“If (providers) can convince the parent that it’s worth $2 to encourage their children to stop yelling in the back of the car if they have their favourite Treehouse episode, then they might do it.”

Kid-friendly content is readily available in the brave new multimedia universe. That includes educational snippets from Sesame Street, while parents are already downloading cartoons and movies into video iPods to keep little Brad or Angelina happy while waiting at the grocery checkout or in a traffic jam.

And dozens of channels from CNN to ESPN to FOX offer their content in downloadable clip format.

What’s different here is the cross-promotional spectrum of options targeted at children so young in the Emily Yeung rollout.

The first of the 65 six-minute episodes will be available through video-on-demand August 21, and streamed to the series website launch on August 28 at www.TreehouseTV.com/ThisIsEmilyYeung.

The show centres around the inquisitive Emily, who explores, creates and learns with whoever her guest may be: from costume designers and snake handlers to professional basketball players.

“We have to find that magic in a kid who’s not an actor… who is very open and willing to explore,” said executive producer Mark Bishop, who followed the same format with the award winning series This is Daniel Cook.

Although people laughed when www.thisisdanielcook.com was established as a website aimed at preschoolers, Bishop says the site now gets 160,000 unique visitors each month.

“We’ve just cracked the two million mark of people coming to the website and they’re staying for 20 minutes,” said Bishop. “Again, these are two-to-six year-olds who are coming and interacting with the content. It reinforces the idea that the adoption of technology is happening at a younger age: as long as you have entertaining but safe content. And I think that’s what we’re able to create.”

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