PBS to Launch New Kids Channel, Digital Live Stream

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood - PBS

The move comes as competitors like Netflix, Amazon and HBO, which recently acquired first-run rights to PBS mainstay 'Sesame Street,' have increased their library of programming aimed at children.

PBS will launch a new TV channel and digital live stream featuring kids programming, it was announced Tuesday.

The free services will be powered by local stations and will allow kids to stream their favorite series during primetime and other after-school hours via pbskids.org and on the PBS Kids Video App, which will be available on mobile devices, tablets and platforms like Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Android TV, Xbox One and Chromecast. On-demand clips and full episodes will continue to be available for free on the PBS Kids video app and via pbskids.org.

The move comes after HBO acquired first-run rights to the PBS mainstay Sesame Street last summer (a lifeline for the financially strapped Sesame Workshop) and as Netflix and Amazon have increased their children's programming offerings. PBS has been aggressive in the kids streaming space. (The public broadcaster relinquished its stake in the kids linear channel Sprout, with Comcast acquiring full ownership of the channel in 2013.) 

PBS claims streaming on pbskids.org accounts for nearly half of all time spent watching kids videos online while the site is No. 1 in the kids category for total views and minutes spent. PBS Kids averages 419.8 million streams per month across digital platforms, according to ComScore. PBS stations also reach more kids between the ages of two and five, more moms with children under the age of six and more children from low-income families than any other kids TV network.

Kids programming has become increasingly important in a multiplatform world, with the youngster-aimed offerings proving especially popular on streaming services. The new streaming channel will let local stations offer PBS programming during after-school and primetime hours when kid's viewing is particularly high — and when PBS linear stations are airing adult programming. It's unclear how many of PBS' member stations will sign on to carry PBS Kids, which will exist as a sub-channel and likely will begin rolling out this fall. But a PBS spokesperson characterized the response as "positive." 

“Parents know that PBS Kids makes a difference in their children’s lives, which is why so many have said they would value having access to our content throughout the day. Television continues to be the most widely used platform for children’s educational content, especially among low-income families,” PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger said in a statement. “The new PBS Kids 24/7 channel and live stream offered by local member stations ensure that educational media is available to all families, all the time and via a platform that works for them. Given that 54% of all children nationwide do not have the opportunity to attend preschool, providing access is a critical element of our public service mission.”

The live-stream experience will ultimately also offer an integrated games feature, allowing kids to toggle between a show and an educational game.

The PBS Kids channel will include popular favorites like Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, Odd Squad, Wild Kratts and Dinosaur Train as well as new series Nature Cat and Ready Jet Go! and forthcoming Jim Henson Company series Splash, set to premiere in the fall. Stations' primary PBS channel will continue to feature a PBS Kids section during the day but the schedule of kids programming on that and the 24/7 channel will vary.