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New programming deals reveal war among Netflix and Amazon for TV-watching kids



When talking about the online video revolution, it’s easy to focus on big-ticket prestige projects like House of Cards and the Arrested Development revival.

But recent moves by Netflix and Amazon show the new battlefield for eyeballs may have moved to an unlikely place: kids and family viewing.

On Monday, Netflix announced an ambitious deal with Dreamworks animation to add more than 300 hours of programming to their service -- their biggest programming deal yet -- including the ability to make new shows using established characters from their films.

So far, they’ve only revealed one project, a series based on the upcoming cartoon about a super-fast snail called Turbo F.A.S.T., due at year’s end. But since Dreamworks is the home of Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and Shrek, there’s lots of possibilities.

This deal seems a pointed response to the sniping Netflix endured when it allowed a deal with Viacom to expire; rival Amazon picked up the pieces, showcasing kiddie favorites such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and Blues Clues from the vaults of Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. on its Amazon Prime video service.

Amazon also greenlighted three original kids shows and just two adult programs after asking Amazon Prime viewers to grade 14 different pilots previewed online.

For both platforms, it makes sense to go big on kids and family titles, at a time when school is off for summer and parents are more desperate than ever to find a way to keep little eyes occupied. A Netflix spokeswoman says viewing for their kids and family titles goes up by 30 percent in summer; already, such titles consume about 20 percent of their total hours viewed on streaming video.

Today Netflix debuted a page on its website for parents and families, with videos on how to use the streaming service to its fullest and testimonial clips from parents. Kids and family shows are also grouped in lists with names like “Are we there yet?” (shows for traveling), “Family movie night” and “TV for curious kids” (educational).

It’s pretty basic stuff for anyone who has been using the service for more than five minutes. But Netflix swears there are some folks who don’t realize they can call up the platform on smartphones or tablet computers, watching the stuff anywhere kids might need a little distraction.

Just imagine: a SpongeBob or Shrek cartoon available in an instant, anywhere, to calm a kid in the dentist’s office or kill time waiting for soccer practice to start.

For today’s harried parents, that might be the biggest selling point of all.

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