Viddiverse Is Designed to Be a YouTube/Vine for Kids

Entrepreneur looks to build parent- and brand-safe social network for tweens

Photo: Christopher Gabello

"Just one more video and that’s it.”

That’s a common empty threat/demand many a modern parent has made, after plying their kids with a diverting iPad or iPhone—only to end up begging them to stop watching YouTube videos. Because before you know it, your toddler’s “last” Cars clip leads to something darker and definitely non-Pixar. Or your 8-year-old finds himself lost in a Minecraft vortex. Or your tween daughter checks out an old Hannah Montana clip—only to stumble onto some of Miley’s, er, newer work.

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. (YouTube consumption among the littlest consumers is such a live grenade that all three of those companies declined to comment for this story.)

“Whenever I look at the top 10 kids websites, they are not the top 10 kids websites,” says Jeff Pray, digital vp at Starcom, who works on brands like Mattel and Disney. “Believe me, YouTube is a monster that I can’t ignore. But it’s just a gray area. I’m all about brand safety before anything. And there will always be that question mark on YouTube given that you can’t target anyone under 13.”

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.

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