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Amazon Snags Exclusive SVOD Rights to Large Chunk of PBS Kids Series

If kids are seeking to revisit most of their PBS Kids favorites in the near future, chances are they’ll have to visit Amazon.

PBS and Amazon have completed a deal that makes the Seattle e-commerce giant’s Amazon Prime service the subscription-video-on-demand home to the bulk of PBS’ kids programming. The deal encompasses everything from “Arthur,” the long-running series about an eight year old anthropomorphic brown aardvark,  to “Zoboomafoo,” a now-cancelled series featuring the brothers of PBS mainstay “Wild Kratts” and a leaping lemur.

“We have been working with them for a long time,” said Lesli Rotenberg, senior vice president and general manager of children’s media and education at PBS, in an interview. “As a partner, they know and value our brand.” By putting so many titles under Amazon’s roof, she said, PBS will make it easier for parents and families to find its content and less difficult to promote its offerings to consumers who use subscription-video services.

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The deal is the latest in a recent spate between prominent kids-TV producers and the big U.S. SVOD players. The industry’s video-streaming services are working furiously to develop extensive kids’ libraries. Netflix recently unveiled new programs for 2016, 2017 and 2018 that include a series based on the popular Anne Dewdney children’s book series “Llama Llama” as well as an animated series based on the “Spy Kids” movie franchise. Hulu earlier this month snatched more than 500 episodes of Disney fare from cable networks Disney Junior, Disney Junior and Disney XD. Amazon has launched series like “Tumble Leaf” and “Wishenpoof” that have won critical plaudits, and has readied a pilot that would reboot the old Sid & Marty Krofft series “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.”

Amazon is “committed to making Prime Video the best destination for kids and family programming that will both educate and entertain,” said Brad Beale, vice president of worldwide television acquisition for Amazon, in a prepared statement.

The companies did not disclose the terms of what they said was a “multi-year” agreement. The shows will continue to air first on PBS stations, then be available on Amazon after a certain period of time.

The new deal does not include future series that PBS may introduce, Rotenberg said.  And some of the network’s popular programs stream elsewhere. One series, “Super Why,” remains at Netflix under the terms of a previous deal. And  one of the public-broadcaster’s most popular series, “Curious George” is at Hulu, under a pact recently struck by its controlling producer, NBCUniversal.

The agreement gives Amazon streaming rights to 19 series overall, ranging from relatively new launches like “Nature Cat,” “Ready Jet Go,” “Odd Squad,” “Peg + Cat” and “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”; to mainstays such as “Wild Kratts,” “Martha Speaks,” “Dinosaur Train” and “Cyberchase”; to classics including “Reading Rainbow,” “Caillou” and “Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman.” Also included in the pact are “Design Squad,” “SciGirls,” “Word Girl,” “Word World,” “Kratts Creatures” and “Postcards from Buster.” Two other series, “Bali” and “Peep and the Big Wide World,” are also included in the deal.

PBS’ Rotenberg noted the network’s primary goal continued to be getting educational programming to kids and families for free via PBS stations, digital platforms and a new digital-cable and live-streaming option slated to launch in January.  But SVOD deals help the broadcaster monetize its content, which can then give it funds to put back into programming and distribution. While most children continue to rely on linear TV for the bulk of their favorite programs, she said, SVOD is “an important way to expand the access to our educational content.”

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