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Press Release

Despite Popularity of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Other Streaming and OTT Services, New PTC Study Finds Majority of Services Unsafe for Children

Majority of Original Streaming Content Rated TV-MA; Parental Controls – If Available – Don’t Protect Kids From Adult Content

By: Kelly Oliver

Release Date: 8/7/2017

LOS ANGELES (August 8, 2017) – In a new study of the top streaming video platforms and content providers, the Parents Television Council found that children have easy access to adult content, in part, because the parental controls are lax or non-existent.

The PTC research also found that the majority of original streaming content was rated TV-MA (mature audiences only). On Netflix, 65% of original/exclusive TV programming is rated TV-MA, while 1% is rated G, and 8% rated PG.

“Parents who believe they’ve found a safer TV environment for their children by relying on Netflix, or other streaming services, will be shocked to learn that these devices and services generally do not protect kids from adult content,” said PTC President Tim Winter.

“Our research found that kids have very easy access to adult content on these devices and services, even when parental controls are used – and if parental controls are available at all. This news demands change, given that these services try to hook families into subscribing by using children’s programming as bait and giving a false sense of protection and control.”

This new PTC report, “Over-the-Top or a Race to the Bottom: A Parent’s Guide to Streaming Video,” assesses and grades the robustness of the parental controls and the availability of child- or family-appropriate programming on the most popular Over-the-Top (OTT) streaming devices including Apple TV, Amazon FireTV, Google Chromecast, and Roku, and the most popular Streaming Video On Demand (SVOD) services: Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix.

“While most streaming services do offer plenty of content for young children, there is a severe lack of original general audience or family programming across the services. If your child is too old for ‘Bubble Guppies’ but not yet old enough for ‘Stranger Things,’ most services have little to offer, even despite the fact that programming for families could be exceptionally profitable, as animated films are for the movie industry,” said PTC Program Director Melissa Henson, the study’s author.

PTC President Winter recommends that several changes be made to better assist families. “We are asking the SVOD and OTT industries to better serve families by using some consistent form of age-based content ratings, and work to improve parental controls in order to keep kids from accessing adult content, in addition to offering more family content for kids of all age groups,” he said.

BACKGROUND

For the purposes of this report, trained PTC staff analyzed the most popular OTT streaming devices (Apple TV, Amazon FireTV, Google Chromecast, and Roku), to assess the robustness of the parental controls and the availability of child- or family-appropriate programming on these systems and devices.

 In addition, the PTC examined how those devices work in conjunction with some of the most popular SVOD services (Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix) to assess, among other things, whether age- based or content ratings are being used; how easy or difficult it is for a parent to determine a program’s rating; and the availability of family-appropriate original content.

The PTC looked at the process of setting up the parental controls on both the devices themselves and on the streaming video services to assess which devices give parents maximum control over the content their children can access.

Because the menu of available programming on these services is constantly in flux, and because of the enormous volume of content available, we chose to narrow our focus to exclusive and original content only to assess how much information is given to parents about program content, how the ratings are applied, and how much child- and family-appropriate programming is made available.

MAIN FINDINGS

  • Among top SVOD providers, there is no consistency in the application or visibility of aged-based content ratings.
  • While Hulu and Netflix both provide the option of a separate user profile for child viewers, there is nothing to stop a child from switching over to an adult profile with either service. Amazon does not provide a separate child user profile option.
  • Netflix offers categories of content that viewers may find offensive, which often feature pornographic titles and cover art, and which often appear in close proximity to child-friendly categories – with no clear or obvious way of eliminating those categories from menu screens.
  • Likewise, a child viewer using Amazon Prime Video may need to scroll past adult-themed titles and cover art on promoted original content in order to access child-friendly content.
  • None of the SVOD services offer family plans which would allow parents to block all explicit title at all times and across all devices. A portion of the user’s subscription fee is going to underwrite explicit content.
  • Among streaming devices, Chromecast was most limited, but that limited functionality gives parents a high degree of control over the content streamed over the device.
  • AppleTV alone among the devices we looked at, applies parental controls to music and podcasts, as well as video content.
  • Roku offers PIN-controlled restrictions to the channel store, and V-Chip-type content control on Antenna-TV input, but no additional content restrictions for SVOD services.

To read the full study, visit http://www.parentstv.org/OTT2017M

 

The Parents Television Council® (www.parentstv.org) is a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment. It was founded in 1995 to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media.

This national grassroots organization has more than 1.4 million members, and works with television producers, broadcasters, networks and sponsors in an effort to stem the flow of harmful and negative messages targeted to children.

The PTC™ also works with elected and appointed government officials to enforce broadcast decency standards. Most importantly, the PTC produces critical research and publications documenting the dramatic increase in sex, violence and profanity in entertainment. This information is provided free of charge so parents can make informed viewing choices for their own families.

Visit the new PTC Watchdog Blog at www.parentstv.org/blog.

Follow the PTC on Twitter: @ThePTC.
 
Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ptcusa.

To speak with a representative from the Parents Television Council, please contact Kelly Oliver at (703) 307-9404 or email at kelly@kellyoliverpr.com.