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BBC announces plans for kids-only iPlayer

Children may soon have their own version of the BBC’s iPlayer, according to plans released by the broadcaster last week.

The mooted service currently goes by the name iPlay, and the BBC says it would create “a single front-door for children to the wealth of the whole BBC and our trusted partners beyond.”

The plans, which were unveiled by BBC director-general Tony Hall, form part of a wider review into how the Beeb will evolve over the next decade.

“The BBC must modernise to preserve and enhance what is best about public service broadcasting to ensure we continue to have a BBC that is British, bold and creative,” said Hall.

In the report released following Hall’s speech, the BBC states that iPlay would “deliver tailored, age-appropriate material that changes and develops from childhood through adolescence and into the first stages of adulthood.”

The report outlines an interactive channel that would become a one-stop-shop for child-friendly entertainment, whatever their age. It’s described further as featuring “a wide range of content forms, from long-form video to interactive formats, most of it commissioned specifically for the children’s audience from in-house and external teams, but also including appropriate content from across the whole BBC.

“It would be a window giving access to the full breadth of BBC’s knowledge, information and content allowing children and young people to search safely and learn from all the BBC’s resources with the widest range of age-appropriate material in one place.”

There’s no announced timescale for the launch of the new service, but it does give a glimpse of a future that’s about as far removed from our own childhood memories of after-school programming as possible. It could be that, sometime soon, scheduled BBC programming for kids becomes a thing of the past – with a pick-and-mix approach via iPlay the only way for children to find BBC content.

In the BBC’s proposals it states that it will “close [innovations] that fail, and expand those that work,” adding that “children may prefer iPlay to scheduled television”. So, if iPlay takes off, expect that to be game over for current kids channels Cbeebies and CBBC.

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