CANNES, France (AFP) — Cyber playgrounds for digitally-savvy kids look set to be the cool new space after global broadcasting giant, the BBC, unveiled its children's online virtual world at the MIPCOM audiovisual trade show taking place in southern France.
Children "don't want passive viewing experiences any more," Marc Goodchild, who heads the BBC's Children's Interactive and On-Demand, told a MIPCOM conference. "They want to recreate their playground experiences at home."
The BBC's "Adventure Rock" is the newest virtual kid-on-the-block, joining family entertainment giant Disney's "Club Penguin," Nickelodeon's "Neopets," Stardoll.com and others.
But new digital entertainment spaces need to be safe, secure environments so there will be no chatrooms for the 9 to 12-year-olds targeted. "As a public broadcaster, it's paramount to make sure children are as safe as possible," Goodchild said.
The BBC's new interactive CBBC service will also be free, without any of the paying "add-on" features found in adult virtual worlds such as "Second Life," which pioneered the new online virtual universes where users can create cyber-clones or "avatars" of themselves.
Disney's snowy paradise world "Club Penguin," which is inhabited by penguins that children can dress-up and join in their games, is also free, though members can choose to pay a small monthly subscription to access premium content.
Neither the Disney nor the BBC cyber worlds come with advertising.
"Club Penguin has taken a firm stand and will not include any advertising or subtle cross-marketing opportunities," Club Penguin communications director Kate Mason said in an interview with MIPCOM News. "There's a coffee shop begging to be a Starbucks, but that will never happen," she added.
But not all virtual worlds for children are so altruistic.
Some have copied "Second Life" and created their own virtual cash, such as Zwinktopia with its Zbucks and Stardoll's Stardollars, which can be used to buy virtual must-have accessories or decorations for their virtual rooms.
The main aim of the burgeoning online entertainment platforms for kids is to make the experience as interactive as possible, said speakers at the MIPCOM Junior trade show preceding this week's five-day MIPCOM audiovisual entertainment trade gathering.
Set-in a colourful 3D virtual landscape, the BBC's "Adventure Rock," due to launch towards the end of this year, will enable children to play games, learn dance routines and songs, or invent new ones, which could then be danced or sung live by a group in a BBC studio.
Children's programme makers and broadcasters hope these new worlds will help make up for the decline in the number of new programmes being made.
According to a recent study by media research group Screen Digest, broadcasters' spending on children's programmes last year fell by 80 million dollars.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »