It’s a hard job to build a successful venture. It’s even harder when that venture is in digital entertainment media, a space currently as tumultuous and competitive as any. But pocket.watch, a digital media startup focused exclusively on children’s entertainment that launched earlier this year, has found early success by knowing exactly what it is and what demographic it caters to—and sticking to it.
While fledgling, pocket.watch has an impressive pedigree behind it. It is the brainchild of CEO Chris M. Williams, the former chief audience officer at Maker Studios and GM of Disney Online Originals. As a longtime entrepreneur who loved the idea of bringing together traditional storytelling with modern digital media, he recruited two others to help him: Albie Hecht, the former head of Nickelodeon who is now in the CCO role at pocket.watch, and successful entertainment lawyer and businessman Jon Moonves in the role of Chief Strategist Officer.
Back in March, the company gained $6 million in Series A funding from some heavy hitters in the industry, including Robert Downey, Jr., CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves (brother to Jon), and producer Jon Landau, among others. I spoke with Williams about why so many successful, savvy people in the industry are jumping on board a digital entertainment startup in an age where digital media seems to be at its most uncertain.
Williams believes it’s that pocket.watch has identified and been built around two fundamental truths in media right now: That entertainment consumption habits are changing very rapidly, and that there is no digital media company exclusively focusing on the vast and quickly growing YouTube audience of very young children (ages 2-11). The idea for pocket.watch came from his experiences with his own children. “I would come home and plop down and look at my big, beautiful 70-inch flatscreen TV with surround sound…and my kids would plop down next to me and look at their iPad to watch YouTube,” he laughed. “Getting to see that firsthand in my own house really kicked off my interest in this change in [media] consumption that has happened very, very quickly.”
The data bears it out. In the last six years, kids’ traditional television viewing has been down over 50%, the fastest drop among demographics. The vast majority, over 70%, of content consumed by kids ages 2-11 is now done on a streaming platform of some sort, and the streaming platform of choice for that young demographic is by far YouTube. On any given day, children’s content is the overall top performer on YouTube.
The forward-thinking flexibility of pocket.watch is what enables it to react and respond faster to the changing landscape of children’s entertainment media than massive companies, believes Williams. As a former executive for Disney, he’s seen firsthand how they are hampered by an understandably massive reliance on traditional media:
“I am very aware of how difficult it is at a major media company to embrace new business models, new types of content, new types of distribution, new types of talent, when you’re protective—and rightfully so—of an enormous existing business… I couldn’t get on stage as a keynote speaker at a convention as an executive of the Walt Disney Company and say the words, ‘The linear television audience is in decline.’ That was how they existed and I couldn’t acknowledge it in public. I understand the motivation—I have incredible respect for them and other major media companies, but they have to create a soft landing for these cable assets and in doing so, it’s usually contrary to building the new things.“
Major media companies’ focus on winding down traditional media instead of focusing on new creates an opening for companies like his to gain a headstart in a children’s entertainment field that is largely still the Wild West. They’re able to focus on finding new and contemporary brands that really speak to kids and family entertainment and so they’re already ahead of the curve. It’s a need that no one else has targeted in an age where children’s viewing habits has shifted so drastically.
Alisha Grauso write entertainment news and you can keep up with forbes