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Netflix Will Test Character-Driven Video Previews for Its Kids Content

Netflix is getting ready to try a new thing to help younger viewers discover new shows: The video service will start testing character-driven video previews of some of its shows later this year, executives revealed during a press event in Los Angeles Tuesday.

The test, which will be rolled out on some members’ TV devices first, will present young viewers with a dedicated row of video previews for shows matched to their taste. But instead of simply playing trailers, or the short snippets Netflix has been using as teasers on TV devices for some time, Netflix decided to do special cuts of promotional videos that are narrated by a show’s main character.

Viewers may for instance get to hear from “Hilda,” the star of the show of the same name, talk about her love for the wilderness. Scrolling further, they may have Rayla talking about the “Dragon Prince” adventures, or get to know the robot at the center of its animated feature “Next Gen.”

“They’re shorter, they’re in the character’s voice and they’re focused on the character,” explained Netflix TV product innovation director Cameron Johnson. “They’re not telling you the full arc of the story, they’re just saying: This is who this character is.”

Netflix will test the new previews in the wild with a subsection of its audience, and then evaluate the results to determine whether the previews will be made available more widely.

The streaming giant has long paid special attention to younger viewers, rolling out a dedicated user interface for children all the way back in 2011. Netflix has also ramped up its spending on kids content, both licensing shows and producing a number of originals for children. That strategy seems to be working for the company: 60 percent of Netflix’s audience watches some kids and family programming every month, according to Netflix kids and family vice president Melissa Cobb.

CREDIT: Janko Roettgers / Variety

Netflix kids and family vice president Melissa Cobb and Netflix TV product innovation director Cameron Johnson at the company’s Lab Days press event.

Last month, over 50 million profiles streamed something from Netflix’s dedicated kids experience, added Johnson. And as the streaming service moves from a primary focus of licensed content around well-known I.P. to original productions with new characters, discovery needs to change as well, argued Cobb.

“We have more original content now, and we are finding that it becomes a destination for those new original shows,” she said. “That is really changing the dynamic of the kids profile.”

Netflix’s efforts to introduce kids to new characters could also be a reprieve for parents whose offspring has been torturing them by watching the same episodes of the same show over and over again. At least that’s the hope of Johnson. ”I have kids as well and I see some of the same patterns,” he said. “So I have a strong incentive to say: how can this product help you find another favorite show, and another favorite show?”

Johnson and Cobb shared insights into their work as part of Netflix’s Lab Days, a two-day press event held at the company’s Los Angeles offices. Netflix also used the event to announce two new interactive shows, “You vs. Wild” Starring Bear Grylls and the animated children’s show “Battle Kitty.”

Executives also used the event to talk about Netflix’s approach towards cancelling shows, and the reasons Netflix won’t be part of Apple’s TV service.

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