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  1. Arts & Entertainment

Netflix, Amazon online video strategy: kids and family viewing

Think about the online video revolution, and it's easy to focus on high-profile, 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.

Netflix announced an ambitious multiyear deal with DreamWorks Animation on Monday that will add more than 300 hours of programming to its video-streaming service — its biggest programming deal yet — including the ability to make new shows using established characters from DreamWorks films, which include Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda.

DreamWorks said the deal, which drove up shares of both companies, is part of an effort to increase its TV production and distribution. The companies did not reveal specifics on the value of the deal or the length of the contract.

So far, they have announced only one new project, a series based on an upcoming animated film about a super-fast snail called Turbo F.A.S.T., due at year's end.

This deal seems a pointed response to the sniping Netflix endured last month 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.

In new series, Amazon picked up 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 out for summer and parents are more desperate than ever to find a way to keep little eyes occupied. Netflix says viewing for its kids and family titles goes up by 30 percent during the summer; already, such titles consume about 20 percent of the total hours viewed on streaming video.

Both Amazon and Netflix feature video streaming without the commercials pushing flimsy toys or sugary cereals on cable and broadcast TV. And by creating new shows, each service has a chance to build a lasting bond with young viewers.

On Tuesday, Netflix also debuted a page on its website for parents and families, with videos on how to use the streaming service to its fullest. Kids and family shows are grouped in rows with titles like "Are we there yet?" (programs 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 material anywhere children 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 frazzled parents, that might be the biggest selling point of all.