Kidoodle.TV: Safe streaming for kids
A family-focused kid’s streaming company, Kidoodle.TV is committed to encouraging safe streaming and viewing habits, hand-picking every show to ensure content is age-appropriate and represents the best in educational, entertaining, and inspiring stories.
Co-founder, President and Chief Product Officer Neil Gruninger co-created Alberta-based streaming service Kidoodle.TV from the ground up. For the past decade, Mr Gruninger has focused on web development, online user experience, and e-marketing, and is keenly passionate about creating better digital experiences for young people. The parental presence, along with the ability to control the experience through monitoring systems and time limitations, have allowed Kidoodle.TV to make a significant impact in 140 countries around the world. Mr Gruninger discusses the inspiration behind Kidoodle.TV’s inception, the global mindset that has aided the company’s growth, and the continuing commitment to providing kids and families with a safe streaming platform.
“Kidoodle.TV was really built upon the thesis of families and video distribution being connected through the internet,” Mr Gruninger says. “I started getting into video distribution as part of a technology corporation that basically built out an algorithm for video distribution. [Kidoodle.TV] co-founder Mike Lowe and I actually met through that process.”
The two co-founders came up with the product after Mr Lowe discovered his youngest son had accessed inappropriate content through other popular streaming services. They realized that there was both a business opportunity and a problem that needed solving.
“Immediately, he and I just decided that this was something that we were going to move forward with, took some employees with us, and ultimately created Kidoodle.TV in 2012, so it’s been almost nine years.”
The process since that moment has been interesting, involving plenty of problem solving in working out the different ways in which families and children can access Kidoodle.TV online, with mobile apps, connected TVs and smart TVs all becoming popular choices.
“The media landscape has shifted at an exponential rate,” Mr Gruninger explains. “We wake up and we have to keep up, every day, and really it’s paved the way for what we’re trying to do to make sure that kids are safe online. We trademarked Safe Streaming™, and it’s our core of what we’ve built and what our mission is online.”
The rise of content services such as YouTube has meant that there is now a proliferation of online content for kids, and this in turn has increased demand, with the internet now becoming the dominant method of content consumption.
“We own all of our technology, we’ve built it in-house. That was one of our main objectives from day one, to own and not lease, because at the end of the day it didn’t give us the agile momentum to shift and be a part of this forever-shifting video space.”
By joining the wave of internet video distribution, Kidoodle.TV has seen some real growth over its almost nine years of existence. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has created even more demand for such content to be readily available.
“Families are home, they need safe entertainment and educational content, so it’s been great to have built this for the last 8-9 years and finally really understand that families and the industry have caught up to what our vision was.”
There are a lot of kids streaming services out there, giving Kidoodle.TV plenty of competition, but Mr Gruninger feels it is differentiated from that competition by the company’s image and core family-focused values.
“Ultimately we built the service from a product of our own needs, and that’s key. You have Amazon, Netflix, YouTube, Disney. These are companies that are paying billions of dollars for content – we don’t have those costs. It allows us to have a wider audience.”
The variation of content across these bigger names has become key for kids and families. By getting access to top content, focusing on families and championing Safe Streaming™, Kidoodle.TV is able to positively differentiate from other platforms. The rise in gaming content has definitely been a factor in getting top content.
“Gaming content is this crazy new-age, modern day entertainment,” Mr Gruninger says. “It’s become the majority of what kids today are looking for. It’s been great to be a part of that process and understanding that.”
The connectivity of the internet has revolutionized gaming and built upon the industry. Having safe streaming gaming content integrated into Kidoodle.TV has been a huge value add for the company’s customers.
“A lot of times parents are expecting some older, recognizable, traditional content that they may have grown up on, and we have that as well. We have such good industry credibility when it comes to all the content providers who want Kidoodle.TV, because we have millions of families that are currently using our service every day.”
In terms of producing content, the company has started to make its own originals, which has been an extremely fun and creative undertaking, with a focus on what new things it can do in the kids streaming space.
“We’ve been working with YouTube stars that have created an incredible amount of usership and now they can’t monetize their kids content on YouTube. They’re looking for a place to house their content to actually be able to make money with, and we’re that alternative to a lot of these content providers today.”
Built for today
Based in Alberta, Kidoodle.TV has had to adjust to some particular measures to fit into the technology sector in the province, and Mr Gruninger admits that it hasn’t always been the easiest of adjustments.
“It’s been challenging in Alberta over the years,” he explains. “I would say now more than ever we’re seeing some recognition, we’re getting some street cred. That comes from just sticking to our guns and moving forward and building upon the vision of keeping kids safe online. But we had to go outside of Canada to really build the momentum.”
Both co-founders grew up in Alberta, and still have family in the province, but a lot of the financing they needed to make the company viable had to come from elsewhere. It has been a slow process feeling a part of the tech community in the area.
“We’re proud Albertans, and we get what we offer as a whole, and what the community can do for us. We’ve hired now 40 people during COVID, all very passionate about what we’re doing and excited to work with us.”
Ultimately, the tech sector in Alberta is young and growing, and Mr Gruninger admits that the company is more than happy to do what it can to help with that growth and to build upon the technology and media industry to help Alberta as a whole grow and diversify.
Although the company is Canadian, it operates in 140 countries across the world, meaning it always has a global mindset. It’s partnership with mass media and entertainment conglomerate Corus Entertainment has helped it reach this point.
“We’re an ad supported video service, so AVOD is the acronym there. Corus is the one that represents our specific inventory here, and they go out and sell our ads. But, the majority of all our usage is in the United States.”
The company has excellent representation in Canada, as its core distribution partners like Roku, Samsung and LG have supported the platform in the country. However, Canada itself is only a small part of the company’s market.
The company’s current focus is on making Kidoodle.TV feature-rich and enhancing the user experience. The technology is really the core focus, making sure that it can offer the very best streaming service.
“We’ve hired a bunch of grandparents to go through all of our content before it gets on the service. A real key focus of ours is growing that employment base and really getting them involved, because they are so key to keeping kids safe online. They watch every single frame of that content before it goes out. So that’s been great.”
The service has been built for today, so in that respect the future is now. There is so much still ahead of the company, including launching on the huge US telecommunications company, Comcast, in the near future.
“Comcast is a big company, and they want Kidoodle.TV, and it’s pretty cool. This has taken years and years, but we’re finally hitting these benchmarks of distribution platforms that just recognize us as one of the top services out there, and they can’t deny the growth and what families are looking for. That’s been very exciting for us.”
The truth is that where the company used to be calling the big distributors, asking to be put onto a platform, the big distributors are now calling Kidoodle.TV because of its reputation and previous success.
“We’ve got Paw Patrol. It’s a big, big brand. We’re one of only a small amount of streaming services that even work with Spin Master, which owns the IP for Paw Patrol. We’re getting some other big brands – in two weeks from now, we have a major launch campaign with the top brand in the world, and that’s what families are looking for.”
The journey has been fun and exciting, and has it has come to the point where the company is outperforming itself every day, with a great trajectory for success, and growing impressively from an employment standpoint.
“Our future is just continuing on and keeping kids safe,” Mr Gruninger concludes, “and making sure that families have an alternative outside of YouTube, because that’s really where they’re finding their content today.”
Operating in a rapidly growing market, and differentiating itself from the competition with a commitment to offering a safe streaming space for kids, it certainly appears that the future for Kidoodle.TV will be glowing. Find out more about Kidoodle.TV by visiting kidoodle.tv.