Toy vision: The impact of kids' viewing habits on toys

Children’s TV plays a vital role in how kids select their toys, inspiring playtime on all levels. But how are kids’ viewing habits starting to impact sales? Jade Burke explores.
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Kids are consuming TV content at a rapid pace, and with an abundance of children’s channels from Nickelodeon to Cartoon Network all churning out new episodes on a daily basis, it’s no wonder that these children’s series are having a fundamental impact on how young ones enjoy playtime.

Tuning in to the TV and watching the latest episode of PAW Patrol is part of a child’s routine, just as it is playing with the latest play-set starring Chase and Skye, but are kids’ viewing habits starting to have a key impact on toy sales? 

“The performance of shows on-air directly impact the sales of products related to the show,” reveals Nickelodeon’s VP of commercial partnerships, consumer products and experiences, Marianne James. 

Certainly if a show is trumping viewing rates it is likely that toy sales will follow suit. However, research is intrinsic to ensuring a toy launch is successful, for example, James warns that children’s shows must boast a loyal following before a toy line can even be considered. 

“We try to monitor the popularity of shows before we consider products. This includes doing research into the consumer products potential of the shows, through to ratings once the show has launched,” James enthuses.

Kids are consuming more content than ever before because of different platforms and second screens.

Marianne James, Nickelodeon

Not only that, timely releases can also help to continue momentum, such as with the PAW Patrol Air Patroller vehicle, which hit retailers’ shelves after the vehicle was showcased during an episode at Easter 2016, which resulted in a sell-out product. From this no doubt children continued to engage with the series and buy new toys. 

“PAW Patrol is an example of a property that has now become an essential part of a pre-schooler’s daily viewing and as such, products, especially toys and softlines, are timed to launch at the same time as particular episodes, such as the Air Patroller vehicle toy launching at the same time as the episode was shown at Easter 2016 and the product sold out.” 

Similarly, WWE supported the release of a Steel Cage play-set for fans to enjoy by locking Chris Jericho inside a cage during a match, to help ramp up toy sales. 

Screen success

In a society that is now screen heavy, with households having as many as six screens in the form of TVs, smartphones and tablets, the impact TV is having on a child’s choice in toys cannot be ignored, with streaming services and adverts all altering how a child is playing. 

“I think standard TV is not having as much of an impact. My children prefer on demand TV like Netflix and YouTube and I think YouTube has a far bigger impact,” recalls Matt Booker, owner of Automattic Comics and Toys.

“The problem is that distribution in the UK is way behind keeping up with the current trends and needs a kick up the bum. It's evolving into a very different market place for the next hot trend.” 

In contrast, Nickelodeon has witnessed a recurring trend in children choosing to watch TV, which has also helped to propel toy sales with various properties including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which has secured over $2 billion in retail sales across various categories since 2012. 

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James adds: “Kids are consuming more content than ever before because of availability on different platforms and second screens, but we know through our research that their preferred way to watch TV content is through the main set and that live TV still accounts for the majority of their viewing.” 

There’s no denying the impact an advert may have on children too, with most children’s shows filled up with advertisement slots for the latest toy, showcasing new heroes and villains for kids to play with. With all of this content engulfing viewers, children are able to gain inspiration for playtime, taking on the role of the ‘baddie’ or ‘goodie’ character to mimic poignant scenes from their favourite TV show, which of course leads to even more sales for the manufacturer. 

Mitch Brown, owner of Darths Hutt, concurs: “The majority of advertising is now on the children's channels rather than normal terrestrial channels. Kids can pester the parents for a product they have seen on TV, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the parent has seen the advert themselves.” 

Binging boom

With all this consumption comes a cause for concern; are children now starting to binge on their favourite shows through different platforms? 

Ofcom detailed its annual Communications Market Report during August 2017, which found that 79 per cent of UK adults are now watching multiple episodes of their favourite shows in a single viewing session. Of course, this figure doesn’t include children, however, the fact that the UK is enjoying binge watching proves that this behaviour could be transferred to kids. 

It is important to know what children are watching and a great excuse to tune in.

Peter Allinson, Whirligig

“This generation of kids tend to want content on tap to suit their mood, our research has shown, and VOD viewing allows for this,” James explains. 

“Binging on one property for example can mean watching the show, buying the products, playing the game online and interacting with the channel on social media for example.” 

Despite this, toy manufacturers cannot discount the fact that TV content is a major part of children’s lives and has a huge impact on how children play and choose their toys, making it even more crucial to track their viewing habits. 

“It is really important to know what children are watching and a great excuse to tune in,” concludes Peter Allinson, owner of Whirligig Chichester.


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