Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Nickelodeon Bolsters Noggin Through Acquisition of Sparkler, an Early Childhood Learning Platform

Nickelodeon Bolsters Noggin Through Acquisition of Sparkler, an Early Childhood Learning Platform

Sparkler Co-Founder Kristen Kane Named Noggin’s New Executive Vice President


Nickelodeon Bolsters Noggin Through Acquisition of Sparkler, An Early Childhood Learning Platform

NEW YORK--In a move that further expands the educational value of Nickelodeon’s Noggin, the network has acquired Sparkler, an early childhood learning technology platform, and has installed its co-founder Kristen Kane as the new leader for the direct-to-consumer preschool subscription service. Noggin is Nickelodeon’s ad-free, video subscription service with educational content currently featuring over 1,500 iconic, full-length library episodes, short-form videos, Spanish-language videos, and music videos featuring preschoolers’ favorite characters and more.

Sparkler is an early learning platform that measures child development and delivers personalized content and coaching to parents to improve child outcomes. Over the next year, Sparkler’s technology will be integrated into Noggin’s platform, enabling parents to guide and support their kids’ continued growth and development through engaging, playable content and experiences on and off screen, with personalized features that track progress over time.

Kane, in the new role of Noggin’s Executive Vice President (EVP), will oversee the integration of Sparkler and drive Noggin’s strategy and next phase of development as an educational digital platform. She will be based in New York and report to Nickelodeon President Brian Robbins.


Said Robbins: “Pairing Sparkler’s capabilities with our curriculum-driven content will fully transform Noggin into a premier interactive learning destination for preschoolers and their families. Kristen brings extensive experience in the education and technology space, and she will help drive Noggin’s growth with an increased focus on delivering even greater value to our direct-to-consumer service.”

Subject to the terms of the transaction, Sparkler’s work with schools, healthcare providers, and social services providers will continue through a new non-profit organization called Sparkler Learning, and Viacom will support its mission of helping families give their children a strong start in life through partnerships with educators, doctors, and others serving young families.

Previously, Kane was the founding Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Amplify, an education technology company dedicated to collaborating with educators to create learning experiences for students K-12. Prior to that, she was COO of the New York City Department of Education in the Bloomberg administration, responsible for the implementation of reforms and oversight of daily operations. Kane also served at the Federal Communications Commission, where she led the development of strategies for applying broadband technologies in the education, healthcare, and energy sectors.

Noggin subscriptions have grown by triple digits year over year from 2017 to 2018, and the service is currently available for iPad, iPhone, Apple TV, Android, Fire tablet and Roku devices, as well as on Amazon’s Prime Video Channels and The Roku Channel. With over 30 series to date, including current titles like PAW Patrol, Blaze and the Monster Machines, Peppa Pig, and Bubble Guppies, Noggin’s lineup also features classic favorites such as Dora the Explorer, Blue’s Clues, Team Umizoomi and Yo Gabba Gabba!

Since its launch in 2015, Noggin has consistently ranked at the top of the charts in the Family and Kids categories, and it is one of the Top 10 Kids Apps on the Free Apps chart on the App Store, in addition to being the number-one grossing app for Music and Video in the Family Category on Google Play. Noggin was also selected by Apple as an Apple TV app of the year.

Nickelodeon, now in its 39th year, is the number-one entertainment brand for kids. It has built a diverse, global business by putting kids first in everything it does. The company includes television programming and production in the United States and around the world, plus consumer products, digital, recreation, books and feature films. Nickelodeon’s U.S. television network is seen in more than 90 million households and has been the number-one-rated kids’ basic cable network for 22 consecutive years. For more information or artwork, visit http://www.nickpress.com. Nickelodeon and all related titles, characters and logos are trademarks of Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIA, VIAB).

More from Bloomberg:

Viacom's Nickelodeon Acquires Sparkler in Pivot Toward Education

- Learning app will be folded into its successful Noggin service
- Sparkler co-founder Kristen Kane will oversee merged business

Nickelodeon wants to turn kids’ living rooms into classrooms.

The Viacom Inc.-owned kids’ network has acquired the learning app Sparkler and plans to fold it into Noggin, a video service for preschoolers. Kristen Kane, the co-founder of Sparkler, will now oversee Noggin, which combines a catalog of more than 1,500 episodes of shows like “Paw Patrol” and “Peppa Pig” with play-as-you-go learning challenges involving popular Nick characters.

The companies didn’t disclose terms. The acquisition is a sign of Nick’s growing confidence and investment in Noggin, which has about 2.5 million subscribers.

“This app all of a sudden over the last year is growing like a weed,” said Brian Robbins, the president of Nickelodeon.

Robbins, a successful actor, producer and entrepreneur, hesitated when Viacom Chief Executive Officer Bob Bakish asked him to take over Nickelodeon. While Nick is still the most-watched kids’ TV network in the U.S., viewership of kids’ TV has been in decline for the better part of a decade -- hurt by a new generation of youngsters watching YouTube and Netflix instead of traditional cable and satellite.

Revived Brand

But he saw opportunities to capitalize on its animation studio and live events -- and he saw an underappreciated asset in Noggin. Viacom co-founded Noggin as a cable network in 1999, an offshoot of its popular Nickelodeon channel aimed at younger kids. After turning Noggin into Nick Jr., it revived the brand in 2015 as the name of an online-only service for kids.

Noggin is one of Viacom’s earliest efforts to gain a foothold in the booming market for online video. But it has been something of an afterthought for the past few years, seldom discussed as a huge growth opportunity for a company that has reported declining sales. Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc., meanwhile, invested billions of dollars in kids’ programming to lock in a new generation of families.

That all changed when Viacom began selling the service via Amazon’s channels store. Its domestic subscriber base has more than tripled over the past year. Deals with international pay-TV providers like Telefonica SA have provided a further 1.9 million customers, Robbins said.

Robbins has no intention to compete head-to-head with Netflix and Amazon in entertainment, an expensive proposition. Instead, he wants to further establish Noggin as an app parents can trust -- a productive use of screen time that also entertains. He also intends to expand the service’s target audience to include kids as old as 8, from the current range of 2 to 4.

Sparkler allows parents to measure a child’s early-stage educational development, and it delivers personalized coaching to reach certain goals. Kane used to work for New York City’s Department of Education and News Corp.’s former Amplify digital education unit.

“When handing a kid a device, it feels really good to know that they are getting more out of the experience than just watching,” Robbins said. “Ramping up the education -- and the benefits of that -- I think will make Noggin explode.”

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Update (4/23) - In additional news, Nickelodeon's NOGGIN app has won the "Family & Kids" award in "Apps, Mobile, and Voice" category of the 2019 Webby Awards! Congrats Nick!

More Nick: Nickelodeon Embarks on New Direction with its Biggest, Most Wide-Ranging Content Slate Ever!

Press release via Business Wire; H/T: Seeking Alpha; Additional sources: The Verge, CelebrityAccess.

Originally published: Friday, March 29, 2019 at 5:58pm GMT.
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