By Dawn Chmielewski
(Reuters) - Celebrity video messaging service Cameo said Thursday it has partnered with Candle Media to launch a new feature aimed at the playground set -- Cameo Kids.
The service will offer personalized birthday and holiday video greetings from animated children's characters, including popular figures from Candle Media's Moonbug Entertainment's franchises "Blippi" and "CoComelon."
Personalized messages for children expand the potential market for Cameo, which launched five years ago and allows athletes, celebrities and musicians to sell personalized videos to their fans. Among those currently featured on the service are U.S. Women's soccer player Mia Hamm, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"'s Alex Borstein and country singer Lee Brice.
"Even though Cameo is famous for you sending a friend a 'Real Housewives' video, our core users have kids," said Steven Galanis, Cameo's chief executive and co-founder, noting that 73% of its customers are over the age of 29. "This finally gives us a way to help them create those ... experiences they’ve already seen with Cameo but for the kids in their lives."
The Candle Media partnership taps into that audience, with individualized messages from characters including the title character from the preschool animated series "Blippi Wonders," and J.J., Cody, CeCe and Nina from the children's show "CoComelon."
Cameo surged in popularity during the pandemic, giving performers a creative and financial outlet as productions and concerts shut down. In March 2021, its parent company, Baron App Inc, completed a $100 million funding round that valued the service at more than $1 billion.
Discussions began more than a year ago at The Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Candle Media co-chief executives Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs -- two veteran executives of Walt Disney Co -- talked with Galanis about their vision for building a digital media company and finding new ways to monetize content.
Cameo had experimented with offering children's content about a year ago, working with Mattel Inc's 'Thomas the Tank Engine,' but its partnership with Candle Media helped elevate the experience, Galanis said.
Blackstone-backed Candle Media spent months figuring out how to use its animated characters to deliver personalized video at scale. It brought voice actors into a studio for two separate recording sessions, which were used to train an artificial intelligence program to deliver individualized messages.
"This is an utterly unique use case," said Mayer. "There isn’t anything like it in the world. And it’s a use case we think will serve and delight our audiences."
Also available at launch are Thomas the Tank Engine, True from Netflix Inc's "True and the Rainbow Kingdom," and an animated Santa Claus. Prices for videos start at $25.
(Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles; editing by Diane Craft)