After establishing a foothold on YouTube with shorter-form fare, Pocket.watch is gearing up for the next phase of its strategy — introducing long-form series for distribution on premium streaming services and TV networks.
Pocket.watch can’t yet name names, but the company, which is focused on kids 2-11, is in discussions for a variety of series from its developing long-form slate.
The company also said it expects to lock in distribution deals for at least one, if not more, of its shows with premium over-the-top partners or more traditional TV networks by second quarter 2018, according to founder and CEO Chris M. Williams. On the OTT end, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are among the mostly likely candidates.
Pocket.watch has about 15 series in development, Williams said, with each one typically anchored by an original character. Albie Hecht, the former head of Nickelodeon who played a key part in developing franchises such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer, is now leading up similar efforts at Pocket.watch.
Pocket.watch has already detailed some of that work, including Skoogle, a premium sketch comedy series for kids created by Kenan Thompson (Saturday Night Live). Skoogle, also the name of the show’s main character, will be an Alexa-like A.I. figure. Also in the works is HobbyKids Adventures, a show created by Butch Hartman (Fairly OddParents) based on YouTube Kids fixture HobbyKidsTV.
Characters from those premium shows will also be integrated into Pocket.watch’s YouTube channel, which features shorter-form fare. In some cases, those characters might appear on the YouTube channel before the associated premium series is launched.
“We are looking at ways to embody some of our characters on YouTube as a platform, or even Instagram … ahead of it being a premium series,” Williams said, noting that each new premium show or series will go through a “franchise plan” that determines it is introduced across different platforms. “The sequencing is something we decide on a case-by-case basis.”
Moving Beyond Videos
Pocket.watch also has work underway to expand its brand well beyond video, into books and other forms of merchandising that focus on its brands, shows and characters. Of recent note, Pocket.watch announced a partnership with Simon Spotlight, a unit of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, which will create books (including for electronic readers) under the Pocket.watch brand.
“We think that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Williams said. “There is licensing and merchandising and games and other avenues to explore with these franchise brands, because they already have this massive audience and brand recognition on the platform of YouTube, but not off of it.”
Though premium series and shows are on the way, Pocket.watch has been leaning heavily on YouTube to form the foundation of its brand and generate interest and buzz before those bigger, more premium-level steps are made.
“If you imagine us as Marvel, a channel like HobbyKidsTV, for example, is like having Iron Man before there was a movie,” Williams said.
As a milestone, Pocket.watch said its partner channels on YouTube and one that it operates under its own brand surpassed 1 billion views per month.
Pocket.watch’s first owned-and-operated YouTube channel, billed as an offering for the tween audience, recently hit 45,000 subscribers and is generating more than 1 million views per week, Williams said.
The Culver City, Calif.-based content company is producing about 100 videos per month.
Last month, Pocket.watch also expanded on its work with YouTube stars, announcing relationships with EvanTube (a portfolio of kids and family channels), and CaptainSparklez, a popular gaming entertainment channel from Jordan Maron that already has 10 million subscribers.
Looking forward to 2018, Williams said Pocket.watch would continue to focus on its three main areas of business — working with YouTube creator partners, building its own YouTube channels and developing its premium slate of intellectual property and franchises.
“We think our timing could not be better for establishing a brand that is always associated with doing right by kids and parents, by creating, curating and distributing parent-and kid-safe content across all platforms,” Williams said.
Earlier this year, Pocket.watch landed a $6 million “A” funding round led by Third Wave Digital and participation from CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves, Academy Award-winning producer Jon Landau, United Talent Agency, Robert Downey Jr.’s Downey Ventures and Chris Jacquemin, partner, head of digital media at WME.
The startup hasn’t announced plans to raise more, but “we have a lot of options for how we continue to grow the company and we proactively explore all of those,” Williams said.
Pocket.watch, a company with about 30 employees, just appointed former The Walt Disney Co. executive Bruce Gordon as its chief financial officer.
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