Addictive animal webcams prove irresistible to business and viewers; The average person, seemingly transfixed by the cuteness, stays on the page for 18 minutes and 50 seconds

Addictive animal webcams prove irresistible to business and viewers

April 3, 2013



Too cute: Animal Planet has signed a deal with Samsung to encourage viewers to watch Kitty Cam on their TVs.

The average visitor to the Kitten Cam on Animal Planet’s website has a hard time leaving. The live internet stream of felines has been watched more than 25 million times since it started last September. The average person, seemingly transfixed by the cuteness, stays on the page for 18 minutes and 50 seconds.

“That’s a longer length of time than many television shows,” said the head of Animal Planet, Marjorie Kaplan.

The channel, sensing that its visitors would like more of a good thing, will begin promoting 10 more web channels this week as “ambient entertainment” for viewers and advertisers. At a new website, APL.TV, webcams of ants, beluga whales, chicks, penguins, wild birds, and even cockroaches, will be live all the time, day and night.

The web channels — under the umbrella name “Animal Planet Live” — are designed for internet-connected TV sets, so viewers can watch the kitties and penguins on their big screens. Animal Planet already has a deal with Samsung so that the cams will appear on the manufacturer’s smart TV interface, and it says it will have a similar app for Xbox Live in coming months. The arrangement portends a future when tiny, cheap web channels can compete for viewers with 30-year-old cable TV channels.

Importantly for Animal Planet’s owner, Discovery Communications, which has withheld most of its television programming from the web, the new web channels are additive and do not use anything that already runs on the main Animal Planet channel.“This is a complementary channel that expands the brand, but isn’t doing what we’re doing on TV,” said JB Perrette, the chief digital officer for Discovery.

Someday, the Cockroach Cam might show up right next to Animal Planet on a next-generation television guide. Discovery can sell ads on both, though executives at the company acknowledge that for now the cheap animal cams are only an incremental source of revenue.

Animal cams have existed online for as long as there have been webcams. Perhaps the most famous is the Shiba Inu Puppy Cam, which became something of a sensation when it was started by a couple in San Francisco in 2008.

The New York Times has featured on its website a Hawk Cam, chronicling the red-tailed hawks of Washington Square Park, since 2011.

Generally speaking, the cams that have garnered a rabid following are managed by amateurs or nonprofit groups, not by companies looking to profit from them. So Animal Planet is treading lightly. In some cases it planned to redistribute existing cams, like the beluga and sea nettle cams already operated by, a division of the Annenberg Foundation.

Jason Damata, a media adviser for, said the group has set up 50 cams around the world “purely to inspire people to fall in love with the world again and give them a break”. He said the cams are particularly popular during the day, when many people are at work and presumably taking a break.

The cams picked up by Animal Planet will not have any advertising at first.

“We may work out a revenue model that helps other charities, but for now we are happy to gain access to their audience,” Damata said.

In other cases, zoos and sanctuaries have given Animal Planet access to set up cams and attach ads to the streams. That’s how the Ant Cam came about, courtesy of the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium in New Orleans, and the Kitten Cam — from a playpen at the Washington Animal Rescue League — set up to promote a TV show called “Too Cute”. The channel is operating one cam, the Wild Bird Cam, on its own.

The wild stars of the webcams are unpredictable, and that’s partly why the concept can be so entertaining (and, at other times, a snooze).

The web channels, save for the ones provided by, will be interrupted every eight minutes or so by commercials. A spokeswoman for Animal Planet said Merial, the makers of Frontline flea and tick control treatment, was the introductory sponsor. Discovery says the cams will add to existing deals with some advertisers, and be an enticement to others that haven’t bought ads on Animal Planet before.

For example, Orkin, a manufacturer of pest control products that has never advertised on the main channel, will be the sponsor of the Cockroach Cam in June.

“Who would have thought you could easily find a sponsor for a Cockroach Cam?” Perrette said with a laugh.

Animal Planet expects that the cams will serve as a sort of wallpaper for some viewers — especially since they are made for big-screen streaming. Kaplan said that when she took over Animal Planet, her husband proposed that “starting at 2 in the morning, you should have tropical fish all night long”.

“I’m making his dreams come true,” she quipped.

She and Perrette cited the traffic statistics for the existing webcams, like the feline one, as evidence that viewers did want access to more live streams of animal habitats.

“It’s proven that people watch this stuff and can’t get enough of it, frankly,” Perrette said.

Unbeknown to you, the reader, this column took an unusually long time to finish. It was the Puppy Cam’s fault.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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