pocket.watch - Driving the Kids Entertainment Revolution
BY Yako Molhov
In this exclusive interview, Chris M. Williams, Founder and CEO of pocket.watch, talks to Yako Molhov about the success of his studio and the revolution in kids entertainment driven by digital creators.
Chris M. Williams, Founder and CEO of pocket.watch
Chris, you are the Founder & CEO of pocket.watch, which specializes in entertaining and inspiring kids and families through digital-first content. What inspired you to start this venture?
I founded pocket.watch in 2017 because I saw very clearly while at Disney and Maker Studios the movement of kids and family audiences from traditional linear TV to YouTube. I saw it in my own home as a parent and in the data at Disney and Maker. I realized there was an opportunity to create a new company that could partner with these massive kids and family creators, stars, characters and IP coming from YouTube and extend them as true franchises into everything from premium series to gaming to consumer products. We ended up creating a whole new category and now, pocket.watch is recognized by everyone, including new platforms, retailers and game publishers.

What are the major markets and the platforms you distribute your content on? Which are your key partners?
Our focus is the leading markets around the world for English-language and LATAM-Spanish content, starting with the US and Canada, and extending to the UK, Australia, Mexico, Central and South America, the Middle East and Africa, Europe and other regions with fans of our creators and their content. We have over 45 platform partners around the world, including Nickelodeon/Paramount+, Hulu, Amazon, Peacock, Sky, Comcast, Roku Channel, Pluto, Samsung TV Plus, Univision/ViX, Canela and many more.

You are among the largest independent kids and family content studios. How many hours of content do you produce annually and what is your distribution strategy?
Pocket.watch currently has 38.5K hours available for distribution, including the 235 hours and 1080 episodes of premium content produced in the last 12 months. Our distribution strategy is to be everywhere kids are. As kids gain agency over their media consumption, they gravitate towards social video platforms like YouTube and TikTok as they look for content that features kids like themselves. Pocket.watch curates, cures, enriches and packages this content for premium programming services around the world, where it delights kids and is trusted by parents.

Which are your biggest hits?
At pocket.watch, we produce originals with our digital creator partners to accompany our massive library. Our current focus is on premiering these originals on our own networks and services, specifically Ryan and Friends Plus, the 1 kids and family subscription video service now available on Amazon Channels and Comcast. After an exclusive window on Ryan and Friends Plus, we license them to other streaming services and sometimes feature them across our ad supported networks and services including our branded apps and FAST channels.

Some of our biggest hits include Ryan’s Mystery Playdate, the Emmy-nominated hit series ran for 5 seasons on Nickelodeon; Love, Diana Adventures featuring YouTube megastars Diana and Roma starring in an animated original with live-action segments which has generated billions of views across platforms from YouTube to Peacock; Hobby Kids Adventures created and animated by Butch Hartman and starring the delightful boys of the hit YouTube channel Hobby Family.

Toys and Colors Kaleidoscope City is a new pocket.watch original starring the kids from November’s 1 most-viewed YouTube channel in the world, Toys and Colors, in a CG animated/live-action hybrid that teaches kids the value of empathy through fun games and adventures.

What are the current trends in kids content production?
The current trends we’re seeing are in gaming and CG animation. From pocket.watch’s perspective, today’s kids programmers are only just beginning to realize the incredible value of this content phenomenon, born on YouTube, of real kids, from diverse backgrounds, having fun with their families in relatable and loving scenarios. The content is packed with positive messages and values, and resonates with Generation Alpha more strongly than everything that came before. It is our conviction that this content is great for kids, they truly love it, and we’re committed to bringing it to them wherever they and their families want to consume it.

What made you focus on Generation Alpha and what defines this group?
They developed a powerful affinity for stars and characters born on YouTube, and before pocket.watch, were confined to YouTube. We made it our mission to bring this generation more of what they love to the rest of their lives, from major streamers, to toys at retail, to video games and beyond.

pocket.watch relies on creator-led entertainment, working with digital creators. What are the fundamentals of creator-led entertainment and what are the benefits of this type of content? Is this the future of content production?
The fundamentals are seeing other kids and families that they relate to in a way that’s similar to how they relate to their own family and friends. The content typically has minimum artifice separating the kid viewers from what’s taking place on screen.

The benefits to kids are that they recognize the content as more “real” and are more open to its positive lessons and messages. They see loving environments with parents engaging with kids, even playing with kids, with focus, care and enthusiasm.

From a business perspective, there is a large volume of this content, it’s highly responsive to the newest trends, and a fast-changing world, and perhaps most importantly, it comes to us with a highly discernible track record of past performance. There’s a treasure trove of data from its history on YouTube that gives tremendous insights on its future performance, and a set of alignments to help identify content adjacencies as well as potential brand partners, advertisers, consumer products, and market strategies.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been a hot topic in the past few years. What opportunities or disadvantages do you see in this technological advance, and do you plan to develop this segment within your company?
There’s a ton of opportunity, mainly to streamline processes and create more efficiency so the team can focus on creativity. For animation, we can utilize CG avatar hosts, simplistic 2D animation, and text-to-animation within Unreal Engine. For post, there’s captions and QC sheets. AI is also aiding us in the curation process, identifying common themes among videos, and accelerating our content packaging workflows by aiding copy writing, art creation and image enhancements. For social, we’re able to leverage AI tool that transcribes episodes and identifies trending terms to recommend clips for TikTok and Reels.

You are one of the key speakers at this year’s NATPE Global. What are the main topics and issues you will focus on during your fireside chat at the event?
The focus will be on how we deepen, expand and enhance the powerful connection between the new generation of kids and content creators to delight young audiences and build massive value across a broad spectrum of platforms and business partnerships.

The conversation will delve into the captivating journey of how our creator driven media company has ingeniously transformed digital content into multiplatform global franchises, the impact of the overall creator economy on the media ecosystem, and provide a glimpse into untapped opportunities and innovative ideas that could fuel further growth for the industry.
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