The BBC has launched, at no cost may I add, an iOS and Android app for its CBeebies channel, aimed at preschoolers, with mini-games which are based on four of its popular shows. The BBC CBeebies Playtime app is available for iOS, Android and the Kindle Fire in the UK. On the iOS platform it joins the CBeebies Magazine app, which was released last year by the broadcaster’s commercial division BBC Worldwide. “We see this as a window on channel-defining CBeebies brands,” said Patrick Healy, head of product, in an interview with The Guardian newspaper.
At product launch, those brands are Something Special, Alphablocks, Octonauts and Tree Fu Tom. Parents can create profiles in the app for up to four different children, and can also access a “Grown-ups” section containing instructions, educational information and record messages feature for their children. The BBC worked with Bristol agency Mobile Pie on the new app, which complements the existing CBeebies website, that currently has more than 20 HTML5 games that also run on tablets and smartphones.
Over the next 12-18 months new games and possibly new brands will be added to the app, although the BBC is aware of the fact that independent producers may be working on their own apps too. An example of which is Something Special star Justin Fletcher has released two of his own Justin’s World apps, while shows including Mister Maker, Rastamouse and Mike The Knight also have independently published apps. With this being a BBC rather than a BBC Worldwide product, CBeebies Playtime was always going to be a free app, thereby sidestepping the hot debate around in-app purchases within children’s apps, which is currently the focus of an Office of Fair Trading investigation.
There are no current plans to integrate the BBC’s iPlayer catch-up TV service into the app for children to watch shows as well as play games, although Healy accepted that this may be a desirable feature for parents. “A lot of parents hand their devices over to children, and we’ve had a percentage of parents asking us to build something even more locked down than the iPlayer app,” he said, while noting that a growing number of parents are using that particular app to download CBeebies shows to their device, or listening to CBeebies podcasts through the separate iPlayer Radio app.
A recent Ofcom report suggested that tablets are increasingly playing a role as an “electronic babysitter”, but Healy was keen to stress that CBeebies Playtime is as much about a shared experience between parents and children. “We wanted this to be an interactive app that brings parents and children together,” he said, before returning to the theme of CBeebies following its audience to new devices, rather than jumping ahead of them. “We are talking about the digital generation, and these devices are the crayons,” he said. “Children don’t see them as complex or complicated. They’re the early adopters.”
[Image via imagzin]