TBI Weekly: How streamers are putting kids first

Waffles & Mochi

In the global streamers’ ongoing battle to claim the best IP, everything is up for grabs, with services digging in their heels to take everything from top formats to great factual and scripted content. But recent days have particularly seen a growing demand for children’s programming, with streaming heavyweights targeting younger demographics to draw in new subscribers.

The reasons for this new flurry of kids-focused activity are likely myriad; from the increased programming requirements of locked-down children unable to attend school amid the pandemic, to the burgeoning content offering from Disney+, which undeniably holds many of the best cards where kids shows and films are concerned.

From gigantic new original content offerings and expanding libraries of legacy content, to first-look deals with the best creators, TBI takes a look at how streamers are supercharging their kids offering.

Luck

Seeking success

This week saw Apple sign a multi-year deal with Skydance Animation to create kids and family TV and film projects for its Apple TV+ streaming service, including the studio’s first two feature film projects Luck and Spellbound, which are due for a 2022 release.

These films will now debut as Apple Originals, while the company’s TV debut will also now be on Apple TV+, with a two-season order for its adaptation of Tony DiTerlizzi’s book series The Search For WondLa.

Skydance Animation was founded in 2017 and while these projects represent the first slate from the as-yet-untested studio, it is headed up by John Lasseter, director of prominent kids’ franchises such as Toy Story and Cars, both of which went on to become global phenomena. Apple might be hoping that the former Pixar and Disney Animation exec can work similar magic here, despite the circumstances of his departure from that role.

Ben 10

Family favourites

WarnerMedia has also clearly shown its commitment to expanding its kids’ content this week, revealing that it has commissioned more than 300 hours of new original live-action and animated children’s content.

The company aims to boost its kids and family offering across all its platforms, including streamer HBO Max as well as its global Cartoon Network channels and preschool programming block Cartoonito. WarnerMedia says that Cartoon Network will be its central kids & family brand going forward, with these new originals set to add to more than 3,000 hours of library content that the company says is coming to all of its platforms – including HBO Max, of course.

With popular returning titles such as Ben 10, alongside spin-offs from fan-favourite franchises like Gremlins and Teen Titans Go!, WarnerMedia is surely betting that putting some of its biggest children’s brands – and a wide selection of legacy content – on the service is going to get younger viewers tuning in.

Paw Patrol

Expansive offering

ViacomCBS also looks to be hoping that familiarity breeds faithfulness. Its kids network Nickelodeon has firmed up the future for some of its most beloved children’s franchises, this week announcing renewals of preschool shows Paw Patrol and Blue’s Clues & You, as well as Baby Shark’s Big Show!, based on the viral hit.

The popular series iCarly is meanwhile being rebooted for the upcoming Paramount+ streaming platform, with original stars Miranda Cosgrove, Jerry Trainor and Nathan Kress set to return in a more mature follow-up that will appeal to fans of the original series which ran on Nickelodeon from 2007 to 2012.

This all comes just as its CBS All Access services added 800 episodes of popular Nickelodeon shows, alongside a special ‘Kids Mode’ to allow parents to control the content that children can access

Redwall

Franchise potential

Big names tend to draw in a big audiences and Netflix is surely aware that there a few names bigger than Barack and Michelle Obama, whose Higher Ground Productions is signed to a multi-year content deal. But the Obamas are clearly keen to do more than just produce, with the steamer recently announcing that it is working on a new children’s cookery series that will also be hosted by the former US first lady.

While the 10-episode Waffles & Mochi and its puppet co-hosts will no doubt appeal to younger viewers, there will also be more than a few adults keen to tune in to see Michelle’s turn as a TV presenter.

The company has also continued its acquisition of classic fantasy book series IP, with Brian Jacques’ enduring Redwall series recently added to the Netflix story shelf, alongside its existing assets such as CS Lewis’ The Chronicles Of Narnia and the works of author Roald Dahl.

This will be the first time that the film rights to the whole series have been held by one company and the streamer is wasting no time in making the most of it. Netflix already has an animated feature based on the franchise in the works, with Over The Garden Wall’s Patrick McHale attached to write a script for a film, which is to be followed by an event series focused on a different character in the Redwall series.

The franchise potential for adaptations of all of these book series are large and, of course, come with built-in fanbases that span several generations of viewers.

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