iPads make for great babysitters — until your little ones end up watching YouTube videos of Elmo catching on fire.
Amazon and Netflix both have started to cash in on parents’ desire for a safe tablet experience, and U.K.-based startup Plato Media will now try to one-up the big guys with an app called Hopster that adds interactivity to TV.
Hopster, which was officially unveiled Thursday morning and is going to launch in the U.K. in November, goes one step beyond the traditional video streaming service: The company’s iPad app not only offers streaming access to more than 1,000 episodes of kids’ TV shows like Madeline, Babar and SuperWhy, but also learning games that are both personalized to each child as well as directly tied to these shows.
“You are going to see us pull objects out of the content,” Plato founder and CEO Nick Walters said during an interview Wednesday. For example, a child using Hopster may watch a TV show that prominently features a dog. After the show is over, it is presented with a memory game that also features dogs. Hopster’s interactive content doesn’t use any of the characters from the shows it licenses, but instead creates its own environment with its own set of characters, Walters explained.
This type of interactive content is developed in-house in cooperation with early childhood education experts, and Walters told me that the company made a “pretty significant investment” into creating it. “It’s a significant part of our experience,” he said.
But the interactive content isn’t the only thing that will set Hopster apart from offerings like Netflix, which is targeting families with its Just for Kids user interface. Walters said that Hopster is “tightly focused” on the preschool market, and that the content lineup alone will make it impossible for kids to accidentally stumble across inappropriate shows. In addition, it is offering parents a dashboard to monitor their kids’ TV consumption and learning progress.
Hopster plans to launch in the U.K. sometime in November, and Walters wasn’t ready to tell me how much the ad-free service will cost, except that it will be subscription-based. But he said that the company plans to eventually expand to the U.S. and beyond. “This content tends to travel very well,” he said.