HIT Entertainment’s characters offer children ways to explore their world, learn, and have new adventures. Characters in HIT’s catalog include Thomas & Friends™, Bob the Builder™, Fireman Sam™, and Barney & Friends™, each with its own web site. To build its web audience, HIT wanted to offer more of its programming online in custom, localized players.
With traditional video players, there’s a recurring interface that an adult uses, understands, and is familiar with. Adults know what a loading bar looks like, and are fine with using small, bunched-together controls. Designing for young children is different. The interface had to be big, bright, intuitive, and easy to click.
The team had to consider the young web users, maintain consistency, and design players that could be localized for different countries.
HIT also needed syndication control to be able to share its content with other, approved partners.
The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), which evaluates child-directed advertising and promotional material for truthfulness, accuracy, and adherence to laws, provides guidelines for suppliers of child-oriented online programming. HIT needed to make sure its video programming followed CARU’s rules.
HIT hired design shop Hemisphere Interactive in Auckland, New Zealand to develop the player with our Player Development Kit (PDK). Developer Glyn Beaumont and his team used the PDK to build the player first for the U.S. Thomas & Friends site. From this point, they could build off the same design for the other players, such as those for Barney & Friends Latin America and other global sites. The player is currently localized for ten languages, and HIT will soon be adding more.
Using the PDK, the designers could get the exact look and consistency that HIT wanted. They were able to easily add kid-friendly elements like episode tags that pop up in the form of a dialog balloon from Fireman Sam, which is more fun than the standard, tiny video description labels that usually reside beneath a thumbnail.
It was important that HIT be able to control content syndication. The HITplayers use thePlatform’s Feeds Service to draw the video files from the media publishing system (mps) into the appropriate HIT property players. Because the player content all comes from mps, there’s no hard-coded player data, which makes maintenance much easier.
To stay in line with CARU guidelines disallowing ads that blur the distinction between advertising and program content, HIT doesn’t have direct links from video content to product sales. Instead, buttons to a storefront are presented on each video page outside the player. The storefronts sell new DVD products and video games.
Outside the player, banner ads are served by YuMe or DART. When a business division has a video campaign, their sales force can turn on advertising using either ad platform, and thePlatform’s system lets them control how and when ads appear.
“There was not a single thing that thePlatform couldn’t cope with. The API is so mature and so flexible, we could do anything we wanted,” says Glyn. Now that their video views have increased to millions per month, they can pursue more immersive player experiences by adding elements with the PDK. They can design the player they want, and then duplicate it for other properties and countries.
HIT Entertainment offers children’s video sites starring characters such as Thomas & Friends™, Bob the Builder™, Fireman Sam™, and Barney & Friends™.