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Viddiverse Is Designed to Be a YouTube/Vine for Kids

It’s tough to get children to obey restrictions on tablet usage, or that of traditional media. They, of course, have no respect for time slots, channels or programming blocks—assuming kids are even watching ad-supported television anymore. Instead, kids are flocking to YouTube, as well as to Facebook, Vine, In-stagram and other destinations they’re kind of not supposed to be visiting.

Meanwhile, the power players in kids content continue to approach the Web, and particularly YouTube, with great trepidation. Disney maintains a modest presence on the Google-owned video site, while Nickelodeon and Cartoon keep their distance.

Enter Viddiverse. A startup video/social media property aimed at kids 8 to 13, Viddiverse will sport a mix of syndicated children’s shows and kid-produced videos. The site will also blend elements of Facebook, Instagram and Vine. Like other social nets, children will be able to build profiles, amass followings, chat with friends and share content. And all in a safe, kid-friendly fashion. Mom has to approve sign up and the site cannot be used to share names, phone numbers or email addresses. Once signed in, kids will be able to upload videos to Viddiverse, where they can professionally edit clips, apply cool filters, and import other images and music.

The brainchild of CEO Malcolm Bird—a former Nickelodeon U.K. executive who, in the mid-2000s, ran AOL’s now-shuttered kids business KOL—Viddiverse has raised $700,000 and aims for $5 million to $8 million in financing leading up to a launch in Q1. A beta test kicks off in a few weeks.

The question: Why would Viddiverse work, given the skittishness of other kids players and potential security and privacy issues?

“The kids TV business is like the dinosaur looking at the Ice Age: ‘Nothing to look at here,’” as Bird puts it. “They seem so slow to react, and they’ve got their hands tied with cable deals. Meanwhile, there’s no protected, safe environment for tweens—particularly none that are ad supported and Coppa-compliant.”

Coppa is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which governs websites that target kids under 13. Coppa’s complex set of rules complicates matters, likely why Facebook, YouTube, Vine and others restrict their sites to kids 13 and over. For example, aside from requiring parental consent, Viddiverse doesn’t collect any personal information from children, doesn’t allow bad language and won’t link to non-Coppa sites, plus parents can review every video a kid posts.

Bird says he’s working on licensing deals with content companies from the U.S. and Canada, but won’t say which. Viddiverse is talking to YouTube and various record companies about hosting some kid-friendly fare, including music videos. Viddiverse will also feature four hours of live video featuring D.J. Rick Adams, host of a kids radio show for KOL.

But the heart of the site will be its social and creative elements. For example, kids will be encouraged to make their own videos, around which Viddiverse will host daily “studio challenges” (think: “Make the best video lip-synching to this Taylor Swift song”).

YouTube, meanwhile, is looking to cater to kids in different ways—experimenting with Sesame Street on a paid subscription channel, for example. YouTube networks like The Collective have had success selling individual kid-friendly channels like Fred and The Annoying Orange to some brands.

YouTube also has AwesomenessTV, the teen-targeted network that DreamWorks Animation acquired earlier this year for $33 million. But AwesomenessTV primarily makes Web programming for a teen audience.

Bird’s vision is as much about kids creating their own content and becoming stars in their own world, as he aims to get some 2 million kids using Viddiverse before going after advertisers. He’s confident he will get there. “I’m not in any way trying to take YouTube out,” he says. “But much like they’ve created stars of tomorrow, we want to create Viddiverse stars. If cable hadn’t been invented, this is what kids’ entertainment would be.”


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