Kids will no longer require a TV or computer screen to watch their favorite PBS programs.
The public broadcaster, which in recent months has taken several aggressive steps to broaden the distribution of its educational kids’ programming, said it would launch its first branded tablet for TV’s youngest viewers. The “Playtime Pad,” produced by consumer-electronics firm Ematic, is expected to debut November 6 at Best Buy, on Walmart’s e-commerce portal and on PBS’ own shopping site. The device will come preloaded with more than 25 games and 120 video clips and music videos. and kids will be able to gain access to more than 100 hours of video via the PBS Kids Video App. The company’s PBS Kids Scratch Jr. app, which uses favorite characters to help tech kids coding concepts, will also be included, along with an app that helps parents monitor kids’ progress.
Debut of the product comes as many kids’ TV players are working furiously to reach a generation of viewers who do not access popular programming in linear fashion. Time Warner’s Cartoon Network and Viacom’s Nickelodeon have both unveiled new initiatives aimed at children more accustomed to on-demand viewing. In June, Walt Disney launched an app it calls Disney LOL, which makes available short-form video content to kids related to the company’s many popular characters. NBCUniversal’s Sprout experimented in 2014 with a mobile device it called the “Sprout Cubby.” PBS has in recent months unveiled a large subscription-video-on-demand agreement with Amazon as well as plans to launch a new “multi-cast” kids-programming network that can be accessed via over-the-top connections or digital-cable outlets maintained by local PBS stations.
“PBS Kids is continuously looking for new ways to engage children with media that sparks their curiosity and fosters a love of learning, supporting our mission to help all kids reach their potential,” said Lesli Rotenberg, senior vice president and general manager, of PBS’ children’s media operations, in a prepared statement. “We know that families lead busy, on-the-go lives, so we are excited to offer our high-quality, innovative content on an affordable tablet that helps kids learn and explore with their favorite PBS Kids characters, whenever and wherever.”
The new tablet will also contain a front-and-back camera and a coloring app. Parental controls allow parents to customize the device, set screen time limits and manage what kids can access. Net proceeds from sale of the device will support PBS Kids’ efforts.