Netflix nabs Sony licensing agreement, tightens grip on animated movies in US

If you’ve got children, Netflix Instant is already a Godsend. And now it appears the video-streaming leader has even more kid-friendly material to stream your kids’ way. A Netflix spokesman confirmed today that the company has inked a deal with Sony Animation Films, bringing the production company’s animated features (specifically, within the first pay-TV window) to Netflix’s U.S. subscribers, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The animated films were excluded from a separate licensing deal that Sony has with Starz, a representative from the latter confirmed.

The multi-year agreement kicks off this year with the addition of the 2013 films Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 and The Smurfs 2 to Netflix’s catalog. A Wall Street analyst, Tony Wible, noticed this week that Cloudy 2 was available for streaming on Netflix, correctly concluding that the streaming service had made an as-of-yet unannounced deal with Sony. A Netflix spokesman has since confirmed the deal without revealing any financial specifics.

Wible says that when his firm met with the Sony studio last year, the studio’s head revealed that Sony’s animated films would not be included in the extended – through 2021 – Sony/Starz film licensing deal. But instead of waiting for the start of the new contract in 2016, Sony and Netflix have pressed forward and made Cloudy 2 available on Netflix Instant.

Critics and customers alike cried foul when Netflix lost close to 1,000 high-profile films in early 2012 as the streamer’s deal with Starz expired. But Netflix has done well for itself since then, and currently has quite the hold over animated film rights in the U.S., considering its arrangements with DreamWorks, Pixar, Disney Animation, and now Sony Animation. The dawn of 2016 will see Netflix gain exclusive U.S. rights to Walt Disney Studios’ films for three years. The deal also gave Netflix non-exclusive streaming rights to back-catalog Disney flicks such as Pocahontas and Dumbo.

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