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Netflix is adding India and Korea to its original kids slate, with the first local children’s originals produced in each territory.
“This is the marker of our expansion to do more international originals,” Andy Yeatman, head of global kids’ content, told The Hollywood Reporter.
In India, Netflix is launching Mighty Little Bheem, a non-dialogue, preschool version of the country’s most popular kids’ character. It will focus on the pre-school audience, which Yeatman said is “very underserved” in the territory.
In Korea, the streamer will launch Yoohoo & Friends, another preschool-aged show developed from a plush toy IP into a cartoon which sees Yoohoo and his pals travel around the world to help animals.
Netflix has also picked up a second season of its Mexican original Las Leyendas, which was its first international original launched last year.
The development of local originals is key to the kids and family development, as the majority of the streamer’s audience is international.
“We have more numbers outside of the U.S. watching kids content than inside of the U.S., so we are really programming for a global audience,” said Yeatman, noting that almost half of Netflix’s catalog comes from outside the U.S. “We are not just exporting American or English-language content to the rest of the world.”
While the streaming service has had success with non-dialogue shows, particularly from Asia, the animated series are currently dubbed into 27 languages and rolled out worldwide. Netflix is also developing tween and teen shows that will be announced later this year.
With 37 on-air original shows currently on its slate, Netflix plans to start with preschool age viewers and grow with them.
“Our ultimate goal is to have the favorite show for every kid in the household, that kids all over the world, no matter what their tastes are, can’t live without,” said Yeatman. It also builds parental trust with a series of gateways, filters and no ads so that parents, who ultimately are ones who pony up the monthly fee, feel like it is a good value.
Following the controversy of a penis drawing discovered in Maya the Bee, Yeatman called it “a major learning experience.”
“Apparently there is a long history of animators sneaking images like that into animation, in some of the most famous animated movies,” the exec laughed, noting it was not a Netflix production and it had been airing for two years before being noticed. “We don’t have a system to identify things like that, but it is something we will work on.”
YouTube is Netflix’s biggest competitor in the kids’ space, Yeatman said, citing length as Netflix’s strength. “We can blur the lines between what is a series and what is a movie,” focusing on story and not shortform. “We can experiment, so you are going to see things that are like a movie broken up into chapters or series but shorter. We’ll be exploring a lot of different formats. We have that ability better than other platforms.”
However, plucking talent with an assumed audience from YouTube isn’t a focus for Netflix like other networks that are building shows around social media stars.
“What we have found about social media influencers is that it’s rare where they can successfully make the jump of being an actor in the linear format,” Yeatman said. “They have a connection with their audience for whatever they do, but it doesn’t always translate. For us, it’s about the content.”
While games might seem a natural fit for kids that are already watching on tablets, Yeatman said those are not in the mix. His company will expand into interactive storytelling first, which brings viewers back to try different combinations over time.
Merchandising and brand extensions are also in the future as the streamer starts to develop its own content. “We recognize the importance of extending the properties that kids are watching on Netflix and extending them into kids’ lives, and really understand the value of that playground word of mouth leads as far as driving hits,” said Yeatman.
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