Internet

Disney not only game in town

Walt Disney Company will announce an online children's service on Monday, adding to an array of sites for kids on the Net.

Walt Disney Company's announcement of an online children's service on Monday will shake up a burgeoning market, but it's hardly the only game in town.

PBS is betting that the popularity of their children's programming will rub off when they relaunch their Web site next Wednesday. The site will now include five channels, or "neighborhoods," one of which will be aimed at children.

Entertainment giant Viacom is ramping up its efforts, too. The company soon plans to launch a Web site at www.nick.com to augment its popular content on America Online's Kids Only channel. This month on the Web, Nickelodeon also launched "Natalie's Traveling Web Show," an online diary detailing a 12-year-old's ubiquitous view from the back seat of the family stationwagon.

Another children's Web site, Noodle Kidoodle, launched today. It is a joint venture with Computer Associates International. Designed for children, parents, and teachers, the site offers learning tools and games, as well as links to other educational Web sites such as NASA's homepage and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

All these sites will be vying for dominance in a small but growing market. According to a Jupiter Communications study, revenues for the children's online market will remain small through the end of this year. All children's Internet content must do battle with America Online, which currently generates an average of 500,000 usage hours a month with its Kids Only channel. AOL enjoys a reputation as a safe haven for young Web surfers, with easy filters that parents can set.

Despite these obstacles, there is a hefty motivation for all sites aimed at children: by the end of 2002, Jupiter Communications projects revenues of $1.8 billion from the children's online market, up from $306 million this year.