Dis­ney to pull kids’ pro­grams from Net­flix, start own ser­vice

Young view­ers are mov­ing from live TV to stream­ing.

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS - By Travis M. An­drews The Wash­ing­ton Post

As adult tele­vi­sion view­ers in­creas­ingly opt out of tra­di­tional ca­ble, stream­ing ser­vices are try­ing to en­tice their kids. Fam­ily-friendly pro­gram­ming is be­ing dubbed a “front line in the stream­ing bat­tle” and an “arms race over kid’s TV.”

Dis­ney jumped ahead of the pack with plans to pull its chil­dren’s pro­gram­ming from Net­flix in 2019 to launch its own stream­ing ser­vice, which the com­pany an­nounced Tues­day.

The Dis­ney stream­ing ser­vice will fea­ture se­quels to block­buster chil­dren’s films, in­clud­ing “Toy Story 4,” “Frozen 2″ and the live-ac­tion “The Lion King.” It will also of­fer orig­i­nal pro­gram­ming aimed at younger au­di­ences — just like its ca­ble chan­nel has since its 1983 launch, CNBC re­ported.

The move could fill a hole that other stream­ing ser­vices spent the past few years scram­bling to fill — a lack of high-qual­ity, fam­ily-friendly pro­gram­ming on a kid-friendly ser­vice.

Over the years, net­works and stream­ing ser­vices such as HBO, Net­flix, Ama­zon Prime Video and Hulu of­ten cre­ated shows for adults, many of which showed graphic scenes of sex, nu­dity and vi­o­lence. These shows left chil­dren want­ing, so in the sec­ond decade of the 2000s, the com­pa­nies turned their eyes to chil­dren’s pro­gram­ming, an un­der­served but grow­ing mar­ket.

Even so, the other com­pa­nies have al­ways been play­ing catch-up to Dis­ney.

Re­search firm eMar­keter found that dig­i­tal video con­sump­tion among chil­dren 11 and un­der in the United States is ex­pected to jump to 74 per­cent in 2019 from 68 per­cent in 2013, the Los An­ge­les Times re­ported. It added, “At stake will be mil­lions of dol­lars in sub­scrip­tion fees for stream­ing ser­vices that have the best of­fer­ings.”

If so, Dis­ney’s new ser­vice will launch when there are more young view­ers us­ing stream­ing ser­vices than ever be­fore. That shift from tra­di­tional tele­vi­sion to stream­ing ser­vices among chil­dren al­ready ap­pears to be oc­cur­ring. As the New York Times re­ported, Nielsen found chil­dren be­tween 2 and 11 watched two fewer hours of live tele­vi­sion in 2016 than they did in 2015.

Dis­ney tele­vi­sion has been hit par­tic­u­larly hard, which may have pro­vided mo­ti­va­tion for cre­at­ing a stream­ing ser­vice. The Dis­ney Chan­nel suf­fered a 28 per­cent drop in live-plus-seven-day prime time United States view­ers dur­ing the 2016 to 2017 sea­son, ac­cord­ing to Quartz.

The stream­ing giants are also at­tracted to young view­ers be­cause chil­dren watch tele­vi­sion dif­fer­ently than adults, in a man­ner bet­ter suited to the con­trol stream­ing of­fers. Kids are “nat­u­ral binge-watch­ers, prone to view­ing the same episode over and over,” the Los An­ge­les Times re­ported, and they aren’t as be­holden to tra­di­tional sto­ry­telling.

“What’s great about stream­ing ser­vices is kids aren’t tied to the lin­ear broad­cast,” Tara Sorensen, head of the kid’s con­tent divi­sion at Ama­zon Stu­dios told the Los An­ge­les Times. “We can en­cour­age them to stop shows or rewind. Stream­ing and kids just makes per­fect sense be­cause we re­ally put them in the driver’s seat.”

To that end, Net­flix be­gan of­fer­ing lim­ited chil­dren’s con­tent in 2011, the Los An­ge­les Times re­ported. Twenty per­cent of its con­tent was for young view­ers by 2014, ac­cord­ing to data from an­a­lyst firm SNL Ka­gan.

This pivot proved suc­cess­ful. Erik Bar­mack, Net­flix’s vice pres­i­dent of global in­de­pen­dent con­tent, told the Los An­ge­les Times that in 2015, half of its U.S. sub­scribers watched chil­dren’s con­tent each week.

Play­ing catch-up, HBO made a head­line-gen­er­at­ing, five-year deal with Sesame Workshop in 2015 to ex­clu­sively air first-run episodes of “Sesame Street.”

The next year, Ama­zon Prime Video cut a deal with PBS to ex­clu­sively stream most of the broad­caster’s chil­dren’s shows in what the New York Times called its “lat­est move in a bat­tle among the stream­ing giants, along with HBO, to ac­quire or cre­ate as many chil­dren’s tele­vi­sion shows as pos­si­ble.”

Dis­ney, though, won’t need to catch up. It comes equipped with a deep bench of movies and tele­vi­sion shows aimed at young view­ers, ar­guably some of the most pop­u­lar chil­dren’s pro­gram­ming ever made, to boot.

Num­bers aside, there anec­do­tally seems to be a hunger for a stream­ing ser­vice fo­cused pri­mar­ily on fam­ily-friendly fare. Throw a stone at any par­ent­ing blog, and you’re sure to hit a post with a ti­tle like “Chil­dren and stream­ing don’t al­ways mix” or “My bi-an­nual rant about Net­flix parental con­trols.”

“It’s not like net­work TV any­more, where you can put on Car­toon Net­work and know you’re safe,” Com­mon Sense Me­dia par­ent­ing ed­i­tor Caro­line Knorr told the De­seret News. “Watch with your kids when you can and check out what’s re­cently watched on Net­flix. If you have a DVR, record shows you’re OK with and let your kids watch those.”

But the Dis­ney stream­ing ser­vice could well be the an­swer to these cries — no work­arounds needed. It would be the first ma­jor stream­ing ser­vice di­rected at chil­dren, rather than be­ing a ser­vice for adults with a sec­tion aimed at young­sters.

It’s un­clear ex­actly how much Dis­ney’s an­nounce­ment will af­fect the other ser­vices in the long run. But on Tues­day, Net­flix shares dropped nearly 5 per­cent; they fell an­other 2.5 per­cent Wed­nes­day.

“Kids’ con­tent is ever­green and they watch the same movies over and over,” Peter Csathy, founder of the ad­vi­sory firm CreaTV Me­dia, told the Los An­ge­les Times. “And there is a very high per­cent­age of kids view­ing to these dig­i­tal plat­forms. Los­ing that con­tent will have a mean­ing­ful im­pact on Net­flix.” to clar­ify my thoughts.”

Many in Sil­i­con Val­ley de­nounced Damore’s ar­gu­ments, in­clud­ing Google Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Sun­dar Pichai, who said Mon­day in a memo to em­ploy­ees that the en­gi­neer’s man­i­festo vi­o­lated Google’s Code of Con­duct and that sug­gest­ing “a group of our col­leagues have traits that make them less bi­o­log­i­cally suited to that work is of­fen­sive and not OK.”

But oth­ers — mainly rightwing groups — agreed with his de­scrip­tion of a “po­lit­i­cally cor­rect mono­cul­ture” and in par­tic­u­lar, saw Google’s de­ci­sion to fire him for voic­ing an un­pop­u­lar opin­ion as prov­ing ex­actly his point. Ju­lian As­sange tweeted that Wik­iLeaks would hire Damore, adding “Cen­sor­ship is for losers.”

Gab.ai, a far-right so­cial net­work, also of­fered Damore a job, call­ing his writ­ing “a beau­ti­ful work of art.” Other sup­port­ers raised more than $5,000 on a crowd­fund­ing cam­paign to help Damore fight his fir­ing.

Damore’s pub­licly avail­able bi­o­graph­i­cal de­tails, mostly from his LinkedIn pro­file, are not all true: He says that he has a Ph.D. from Har­vard Uni­ver­sity in Sys­tems Bi­ol­ogy, which his sup­port­ers fre­quently noted as a cre­den­tial for him to talk about the bi­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences be­tween men and women. A Har­vard spokes­woman said Damore only com­pleted a mas­ter’s in sys­tems bi­ol­ogy, a field that uses quan­ti­ta­tive meth­ods to study bi­o­log­i­cal sys­tems such as cells and or­gan­isms. A spokesman for the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois con­firmed he has a Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence de­gree in molec­u­lar and cel­lu­lar bi­ol­ogy from 2010. An on­line re­sume says he was a com­pet­i­tive chess player and held re­search po­si­tions at Har­vard, Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity and the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy.

An on­line CV and Face­book pro­file sug­gest Damore hails from sub­ur­ban Chicago. His Face­book page only has a few snip­pets: an al­bum of char­coal sketches, in­clud­ing por­traits of ac­tors Will Smith and Keira Knight­ley, and posts such as one from 2013 say­ing how ex­cited he was to be start­ing a job at Google in Moun­tain View soon.

Damore, who landed his job at Google by do­ing well in a cod­ing com­pe­ti­tion, didn’t go into his fu­ture plans apart from ac­knowl­edg­ing a num­ber of job of­fers. He did ad­mit the scale of the so­cial-me­dia back­lash had taken him by sur­prise, con­ced­ing it was a “blind spot” of his and that he was still strug­gling to un­der­stand the sever­ity of the pub­lic re­ac­tion. Damore also said he was sur­prised by the size of his sup­port.

“It still hasn’t truly hit me, the enor­mity of it all,” he said.

He re­flected on how Sil­i­con Val­ley cul­ture dis­cour­ages the air­ing of right-lean­ing sen­ti­ments.

“Def­i­nitely those who aren’t on the left feel like they need to stay in the closet and not re­ally re­veal them­selves,” Damore said in his in­ter­view. Those peo­ple “ac­tu­ally mask and say things they don’t be­lieve.”

DIS­NEY / TRI­BUNE NEWS SER­VICE 2016

A scene from Dis­ney’s “Zootopia,” which pre­miered in 2016. Dis­ney will launch its own stream­ing ser­vice for chil­dren in 2019 and will be able to draw on its deep bench of chil­dren’s movies and tele­vi­sion shows.

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