Is it just us, or are TV providers starting to forget who pays the bills 'round here? The younger, inexplicably energetic members of the household seem to be getting all the attention of late. Barely a few weeks have passed since Sky debuted its Kids tablet app, and now the BBC is launching iPlayer Kids. Available to download today on tablets and smartphones, the name basically says it all: it's iPlayer, built specifically for sprogs.
There's nothing wrong with "grown-up" iPlayer, of course. CBBC and CBeebies programming has always been fully featured within that app, but children's content is by far the most popular on-demand genre in iPlayer. And so the BBC went about crafting a simpler UI that highlights this content exclusively, and ignores all the other, potentially age-inappropriate shows scattered throughout classic iPlayer.
When children first load up the app, they're asked to enter their name, age and choose a funky little cartoon monster to represent them -- you can have a profile for each miniature member of the family. Age is the important field here, since it dictates both what kinds of shows are recommended on the homescreen, and also whether CBBC content is accessible at all (any child under five will only see stuff from CBeebies). From there, kids should be able to find something to watch pretty sharpish.
There are only four sections to the app (it's supposed to be simple, remember), with the homescreen suggesting age-appropriate content, and the "Shows" tab letting little ones browse the CBBC and CBeebies catalogues in alphabetical order (they can also search for their favourites). Like normal iPlayer, shows can be downloaded and watched within the 30-day window after they've aired. Downloads have their own tab, and the final "Me" section is purely for changing profile details or switching profiles altogether.
Accessibility features are shown prominently on the player screen -- subtitles, audio descriptions and sign language, where available -- and that's all there is to it. You may have clocked, however, we haven't mentioned any kind of time-limiting feature. Well, that's because there isn't one, so parents might want to confiscate devices before bedtime. When the BBC first mentioned it was developing a kids' version of iPlayer, it was part of a bigger digital plan.
BBC iPlayer Kids is the first milestone in this, and the broadcaster is planning to do more than just entertain. Improving access to educational content is one of the objectives of the initiative, and that could manifest as another, more informative section within the new app at some point in the future.