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Netflix to Boost International Kids Content as Viewership Spikes

CANNES – Netflix is rapidly growing its investment in children’s shows with international appeal as the company’s kidvid viewership is growing at a faster clip outside the U.S., said Andy Yeatman, Netflix’s director of kids and family.

Yeatman told the crowd at Mip Jr. on Sunday that viewership of programs in its designated Kids and Family section has climbed 13% of late in the U.S. but has spiked some 61% in markets outside of Netflix’s home base.

Netflix would not give up much in the way of viewership stats other than to say that of its 104 million members households worldwide, more than half of them have watched kids and family content. Netflix has 200 shows in the kids and family section that have been viewed by at least 2 million households. Yeatman said that level of sampling proves “we’re not just doing well with the head but we’re pretty far down the long tail as well.”

Most of Netflix’s kidvid fare is acquisitions. Yeatman told Mip Jr. attendees that Netflix is actively shopping for projects in which it can help offer finishing funds in exchange for a first-run window outside of the home market. The Guillermo del Toro toon “Trollhunters” ranks among its most original kids productions. That show was more than six years in the making and will be back for a second season, Yeatman said.

Yeatman emphasized that Netflix is capitalizing on its SVOD structure to allow creators more freedom with production.

“We’re blurring the lines between what a movie and series is,” Yeatman said. “We’re moving away from standard episode structure. We’ll talk to people about ordering a certain number of minutes or hours — some will be episodes, some will be (longer) specials and some will be short-form content. We’re varying the format to ensure the property stays present in kids’ minds.”

During his keynote session, Yeatman unveiled Netflix’s series order for an animated series “Mighty Little Bheem,” based on the well-known Indian cartoon character Chhota Bheem. The series is one of a number of Netflix animated properties that are “non-dialogue,” relying on only visual storytelling, which helps them around the world. 

Netflix has also ordered its first original series for South Korea, “Yoohoo and Friends,” which features a cuddly character and his four sidekicks who travel around the world to help local animals in trouble.

At present, Netflix has 37 original kidvid series. Building up its live-action bench is a priority as the bulk of its shows are animated. “Free Rein,” a drama produced out of the U.K. about a girl from the U.S. who bonds with a mysterious horse when her family spends the summer in the English countryside, is a good model of what Netflix is looking for.

In the animation arena, Netflix has had a prosperous relationship with DreamWorks Animation. Yeatman told Variety he expects that to continue despite DWA’s acquisition by NBCUnversal. Netflix’s global platform is a prime springboard for IP that Comcast and NBCU can exploit in various other arenas. At the same time, Netflix has given some thought to launching its own animation studio given its appetite for original series.

Netflix recently created a licensing and merchandising arm that will work with its original kidvid properties. However, the goal is primarily to enhance the value of the IP rather than sell toys and T-shirts.

“We’re trying to get them into kids lives in a way that goes beyond our platform,” he said.

Netflix is doubling down on its kidvid investment because there is clearly more competition coming in the ad-free streaming arena, Yeatman said. SVOD is ideal for children’s programming because parents don’t have to worry about advertising messages and the on-demand structure is a good fit for kids who often like to watch favorite shows over and over.

“We know there are going to be more and more competitors coming into the space,” he said.

(Pictured: “Trollhunters”)

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