Netflix, the world's largest video-streaming service, has signed a deal with DreamWorks Animation to create its first original TV series aimed at children.
The series, "Turbo: F.A.S.T," will follow the adventures of a snail that becomes super-speedy after a freak accident, the companies said today in a statement. The 26 episodes will be available to Netflix's 33 million streaming customers starting in December, following DreamWorks' theatrical release of a "Turbo" film in July. (See movie trailer below.)
"Netflix boasts one of the largest and fastest-growing audiences in kids' television," DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said in the statement. "They pioneered a new model for TV dramas with 'House of Cards,' and now together, we're doing the same thing with kids' programming."
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is making big financial bets to secure Netflix's future as the dominant streaming-video service as more viewers move online. He says efforts like "House of Cards" and the revived Fox comedy "Arrested Development" cement relationships in Hollywood and help fend off competitors including Amazon.
Ratings declines at children's TV networks such as Nickelodeon, meanwhile, have been laid by some at the feet of children's programming on Netflix and other streaming services. Amazon said last month that it had ordered five pilots for original children's shows. After they're completed, viewers will be invited to vote to determine which one is made into a full-length series to run on Amazon's streaming services in the U.S., U.K. and Germany, the company said in a statement.
Netflix's deal with DreamWorks expands on an existing agreement signed in 2011 to offer kids' films such as "Kung Fu Panda" and "How to Train Your Dragon" beginning this year. Other original series scheduled for streaming release this year include one by "Weeds" creator Jenji Kohan called "Orange Is the New Black," the thriller "Hemlock Grove" and comedian Ricky Gervais' "Derek," slated for summer.
With films and TV shows geared to children and families, Netflix has been attempting to build a subscriber base that's less likely to cancel for competing offerings, Scott Devitt, an analyst with Morgan Stanley, wrote in a research note in December.
Word of the DreamWorks deal comes a day after Starz, the premium cable-TV channel spun off last month by John Malone's Liberty Media Corp., extended a contract with Sony Pictures Entertainment for first-run movie rights through 2021.
Netflix, which had been seeking the Sony rights, declined to comment on whether it was outbid for the films. The multiyear deal it announced in December with Walt Disney to stream new releases, including titles from "Star Wars" creator Lucasfilm, Pixar and Marvel studios, was more important, Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said yesterday.