A couple of months before we launched Akili Kids!, we were methodically pulling all the pieces together; our technology platform, our teams, our social media platforms, our programs acquisition, our first original production, Boom na Wabi. We were not going slow, but we were taking our time to make sure we could get every detail right.
We felt like we had a terrific channel strategy, but little did we know the world was about to be slapped in the face with COVID-19. We realized we needed to launch the channel and suddenly we didn’t have any time at all. When we met to discuss what we needed to do to get on the air, we had to pivot, and had to postpone some of the things that we had originally planned for launch. Our hope was to get the best minimum viable product we could on the air as quickly as possible and we renewed our focus and got to work.
There were some harrowing moments over the next two months, to get on the air fast with the ‘Rona breathing down our necks. Like how our broadcast server was being sent from Bulgaria so we needed to get it boxed, have the playout software installed on it, then shipped to Kenya, three weeks before we planned to be on air. Then we had to have an engineer from Playbox, our broadcast software company, in and out on one of the last flights to leave Kenya before international borders were closed, literally making it back to Bulgaria the day before the shutdown.
The first time our team really had an opportunity to use the broadcast software was just one week before we launched. We could not get the new shows uploaded fast enough as our internet speeds were too slow, so our partners at Liquid Telecom immediately provisioned us with significantly faster speeds to ingest content onto the server just days before we went on air. Our rockstar editorial team turned around shows and promos in record time. Our senior management team wrestled with file conversions and formats to ensure we had the best possible visual quality in the smallest file formats on our shows. We started our first full schedule test broadcast on 31 March 2020, and we received our PANG channel number that same morning at 11am. Somehow, we went to broadcasting 24/7 on 1 April 2020, with less than 24 hours of on-air testing, because the children and families needed it. All thanks to one of the most technically advanced broadcasting platforms and even more so, an incredibly talented team of superhumans making it a reality.
Our team and many, many other contributors made Akili Kids! possible, and now we are humbled to have literally millions of Kenyan children and parents watching us every day. Now that most of the kinks have been worked out, we’re restructuring the channel into more of the format we originally envisioned. This “Makeover” is as important to us as we think it is to you, our viewers. We’ve been able to do some pretty remarkable things so far (5 Million children and 4 Million parents watching every week!) and I’m really proud to tell you about what these changes will bring:
- All the programs you know and love today will still be with us. Some may be found at new times, but nothing is leaving.
- We’re doubling the number of shows we’re going to be broadcasting on a given day. We will have 12-hour blocks of programs, from 6am to 6pm, Monday through Sunday
- On weekdays between 9 am and 1 pm, we’re dedicating our programming to early childhood content. More importantly, we’re being more organized about the time children spend with Akili Kids! by creating Learning Blocks – hour-long programming blocks dedicated to academic, creative and social emotional subjects. Our first Learning Blocks are for Reading, Science and Math, and they will clearly support each of these topics with content that you may already know and love, with new interstitials and supporting content that will make this time fun and valuable to viewers.
- One of our first requests was to have more content for older kids. It was always in the plan and we’re making good on the promise. On Saturday, Sundays and weekday afternoons during “after school” time, we’re bringing a new Block for older kids – focused on 7-years and up. This new Block is about adventure and imagination, and we’re calling it Teketeke Haiya!.
- We’re going to bring at least one new show to the channel every month, and we’re looking forward to having some great stuff in December 2020 (and beyond!).
- Yes, we’re staying free-to-air and will be working with some landmark strategic partners to ensure your kids can watch Akili Kids! anywhere in Kenya for free or for just a few shillings a day.
The Makeover is truly closer to what we imagined Akili Kids! would look like in our original plans. It’s going to be bigger, better, more fun, with even more learning opportunities. We’re incredibly excited about it and we hope your kids (and you) love it. We’re going to try to surprise and delight you all when you least expect it and keep your (our) children feeling like they have something special that’s just for them. Because they do.
Co-Founder and President
Akili Network Ltd