'Baby Shark Dance' paves path for children's content on YouTube
“Baby Shark Dance” became the most viewed video on YouTube on Monday, marking the first time ever for a children's video to take the top spot. SmartStudy, the Korean children's educational entertainment company behind the "Baby Shark" video series, said that the video hit 7.37 billion views as of 1:20 p.m. Monday to take the No. 1 spot on YouTube.
The “Baby Shark” series has been a huge hit among children all over the world since it was first released by SmartStudy’s children’s education brand Pinkfong in 2016. Adapted from an American children’s chant song, Pinkfong has since released numerous variations of the series, offering the song in different languages as well as different music genres spanning from Korean traditional music, or gugak, to electronic dance music (EDM).
The video that took the No. 1 spot was an English version of the song with children dancing along. It was uploaded in June 2016 and started garnering international attention when a “Baby Shark Challenge” started in Vietnam the following year after American actor Amanda Cerny introduced the dance on an Indonesian TV program in September 2017. Later, the trend caught on in Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.
Online viewers from a total of 235 countries viewed the video, with the top views coming from the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, the Philippines and Vietnam.
“Online users voluntarily shot and uploaded their own versions [of the song], which soon spread to Britain and the United States,” said Yoon Seung-hyun, head of the marketing communication team at SmartStudy. “The dance version seems to have been more popular because of the energetic rhythm and the easy-to-follow dance moves.”
YouTube wasn’t the only platform taken over by the “Baby Shark” craze. In September 2018, “Baby Shark” first entered the British Official Chart’s Top 40 and has been dipping in and out of the chart since. It peaked at No. 6 in January last year and also peaked at No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the same month.
SmartStudy began as a subsidiary of Samsung Publishing. After finding big success on YouTube, it has been actively utilizing its Pinkfong intellectual property (IP) to create various content ranging from TV animations to musical plays.
“The reaction that we got from the musical tour around 33 U.S. cities was very positive,” said an official from SmartStudy. “Children got to relate more to the baby shark by seeing something they had only seen through a screen with their very own eyes.”
The fact that it was used as an unofficial supporting chant for the Washington Nationals’ baseball team, which won its first World Series title last year, also contributed to the increase in views. Gerardo Parra, the outfielder of the team, played the “Baby Shark” song for his 2-year-old daughter when he appeared on the field in June, upping the mood for the whole team. Even Luis Fonsi, singer of “Despacito” (2017) which has been keeping the No. 1 spot on the most-watched YouTube video list since August that year, released a cover video of himself singing the song with his children.
“Baby Shark Dance” accumulated 4.6 billion views in March this year, becoming the second most watched video on YouTube. Within seven months, the number of viewers rose exponentially to see 2.4 billion views as of November, mainly thanks to the social distancing guidelines of Covid-19 that has kept children home, consuming more content than ever before.
“I held physical education lessons for my daughter at home with the Pinkfong videos because I couldn’t take her outside or to kindergarten,” said Lee Ji-oh, mother of a 4-year-old daughter. “[Pinkfong’s] Teunteun Ssaem [or Teunteun Teacher] dance series is popular too. There are a variety of themes and kids seem to like it.”
Children’s YouTube videos are proving so popular that among the 10 most viewed videos, three are children’s videos. Russian video “Masha and The Bear - Recipe for Disaster” ranks at No. 5 on the list with 4.3 billion views, while Romanian video “Johny Johny Yes Papa - The Best Song for Children” sits at No. 6 with 4.1 billion views. “Masha and The Bear” began in 2009 on Russian TV channel Rosia1 and even aired on Korea’s EBS in 2012. “Johny Johny Yes Papa” was created by Romanian kids’ channel LooLoo Kids as an English education program, using the melody of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
Some speculate that kids’ songs may be the next big players on the online platform, following the success of K-pop and Latin pop.
“Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ kept the No. 1 spot [on YouTube’s list of most watched videos] for five years since it came out in July 2012,” said Professor Lee Gyu-tag of pop music and media studies at George Mason University Korea, “which led to the heightening of people’s interest in K-pop around the world. In August 2017, ‘Despacito’ came next to start a Latin pop trend, and ‘Baby Shark’ is expected to lead to the expansion of the kids’ song market in a similar way. Children’s chants have low language barriers and are often played repeatedly, which gives it plenty of room to grow.”
BY MIN KYUNG-WON [firstname.lastname@example.org]