Cord-Cutting for Kids: Video App Kanopy Adds Free Children’s Shows

If you’ve already liberated yourself from a cable subscription in favor of streaming video services over the Internet, you’re parcelling out your dollars to get the content you want most from services such as Netflix, Hulu, and N.B.A. League Pass.

A lesser-known option, Kanopy, offers an unusual streaming subscription deal: Pay nothing, because your university or your public library foots the bill.

The San Francisco-based company specializes in the “thoughtful” programming it advocates for adults, such as historical dramas, classic cinema, documentaries, foreign language films, and educational fare. Today, it launched its service for kids, which includes movies such as “A Cat in Paris” and TV series like “Maya The Bee” and “Wild Kratts.”

The 500 titles for children were chosen in collaboration with Common Sense Media, a ratings service that guides parents’ selections of books, movies, TV shows, games, music, and websites for their kids. Kanopy says it plans to add more than 100 new titles a month to its kids’ video section. The mission is to provide youngsters with videos that “inspire, inform, and help children develop empathy, mindfulness, and self-esteem.”

Kanopy CEO Olivia Humphrey founded the company in 2008 to provide educational programming for universities, which were the company’s original revenue source. That service launched in 2010. Now, the customers include municipal public libraries that pay to provide the service to their patrons. A total of 4,000 universities and libraries subscribe to Kanopy, according to a company spokeswoman. Kanopy now has five million users, and is profitable, she says.

The participating libraries in the United States, Canada, and Australia include the San Francisco Public Library, the U.C. Berkeley Library, and the city of Berkeley’s library, but not the Oakland Public Library system. If your library isn’t listed, you can fill out a form on Kanopy’s website to ask for it to be added. The Kanopy service is accessible through library systems in Boston, Denver, Boulder, CO, San Diego, Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin, New Orleans, Annapolis, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Phoenix, New York, and the New York boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

In an interview with the online entertainment site Decider, Humphrey says Kanopy now streams 30,000 films. Kanopy didn’t respond yet to Xconomy’s queries about its financing history. The company’s Crunchbase profile lists no fundraising rounds from outside investors.

Members of subscribing library systems can use their library card numbers to sign into the Kanopy service from a computer or mobile device. Kanopy apps work with set-top devices Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Amazon Fire Tablet.

Kanopy may not be the go-to place for the latest episode of Game of Thrones, but a film buff can catch up there on famed titles dating back to Charlie Chaplin’s “The Gold Rush.”

Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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