Netflix Partners With Dreamworks To Make Kids' Programming

Netflix and Dreamworks Animation have announced an exclusive deal to develop animated kids' shows based on Dreamworks Animation's characters.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Netflix announced a deal today with Dreamworks Animation. The cartoon powerhouse says it will produce 300 hours of original content for the video streaming service. As NPR's Neda Ulaby reports, the deal illustrates some important trends in the medium formerly known as television.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: The new Netflix shows can be based on Dreamworks' enormous library of wildly popular characters.

(SOUNDBITE FROM FILM, "SHREK")

ULABY: "Shrek" and "Kung Fu Panda," plus a host of classic older characters such as Lassie. Netflix has not disclosed which characters will be in what shows, nor the deal's financial terms. But Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, acknowledged that kid shows make up roughly 20 percent of the website's traffic and kids are crucial to Netflix's success.

TED SARANDOS: I was born at a time where if you overslept on Saturday morning, there were no cartoons this week. My kids have never known a time that weren't without 24 hour a day, seven days a week cartoons.

(SOUNDBITE OF CARTOON)

ULABY: If you want more context for the importance of kids' programming in the streaming video, look no further than Amazon Instant Prime. That's Netflix's main competition. Recently, users voted on which new original pilots they liked. Most of the winners were kids' shows. Now, "Shrek" might seem like a bigger score for Netflix than for Dreamworks Animation, but cultural critic Alyssa Rosenberg says, think again. She blogs for the website Think Progress and she says Internet television is an easier, cheaper platform for Dreamworks than cable or movies.

ALYSSA ROSENBERG: You know, they have guaranteed distributorship now.

ULABY: And Netflix will reach early adopters and a certain kind of parent.

ROSENBERG: Who really, more so than they want to, keep their children from wandering onto skinemax, really want to get their kids away from ads. And there is almost no ad-free programming for children. PBS is really sort of the exception.

ULABY: Rosenberg points out that original content, in general, is exploding and it just makes sense for kids' entertainment to keep up. Netflix has made itself extremely easy for young kids to use, even ones who can't read, and safe, so parents don't worry about what they're watching. Netflix, she says, is playing the long game.

ROSENBERG: Especially if you develop a brand affiliation with children young, you can meet an underserved market and sort of build loyalty.

ULABY: Loyalty among a generation of kids who might not understand why anyone would ever shell out for cable to begin with. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

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