Sesame Street is the new kid on the block at HBO, thanks to a recently inked deal. Although the long-running children’s series doesn’t seem like an obvious fit for a premium cable channel known for shows like the violent and nudity-ridden Game of Thrones, the iconic puppets are actually a perfect addition. After all, cord-cutting parents may subscribe to a streaming service for buzzworthy shows, but it’s often kids’ content that keeps them. If HBO wants to appeal to cord-cutters with its new standalone service, HBO Now, it’s time for the network to cater to children too.
As Bloomberg pointed out, it can be much more of a hassle to change your cable subscription than to get rid of your streaming service. Streamers have to work harder to earn loyalty, so it helps to have programming that appeals to all members of the family, including — and perhaps especially — the little ones. Bernstein Research reported in 2012 that a focus group the firm conducted with San Francisco moms found that most of the women had subscribed to Netflix with their own use in mind, only for their children to become the chief users.
Hours of screen time a day is the norm for today’s kids. A Childwise report earlier this year found that kids’ daily screen usage has more than doubled since 1995, jumping from 3 hours a day to 6.5 hours. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Netflix and fellow streaming giant Amazon have taken note of the big impact of their littlest viewers and developed business strategies accordingly. From snapping up series from the ever-popular Disney and Nickelodeon to creating original children’s programming, attracting youngsters has been a major focus.
In 2012, for example, Amazon invited the general public to submit show ideas as its studio arm looked to expand its original TV content, calling specifically for comedies and children’s programming. Within a year, the streamer launched its first pilot season, giving Prime members the chance to weigh in on which series Amazon Studios should move forward with. It’s no coincidence that 6 of the 14 shows piloted were for kids. Interestingly, children’s programming made up an even higher (albeit slightly) portion of the pilot season content the next two years — five of the 10 shows in 2014 and six of the 14 in 2015. Amazon currently has 27 TV shows available exclusively to Prime members in the “Kids & Family” section, 17 of which are Amazon Studios originals.
Netflix is keeping pace with Amazon. Earlier this month, THR reported that Netflix had 17 original children’s shows, a number that accounts for more than the streamer’s comedies and dramas combined (16 total). The company also has big plans to continue creating content for kids. Netflix has rebooted popular ’80s animated series Inspector Gadget, and Danger Mouse is on the way for this Spring, along with other stories familiar to today’s parents, including Tarzan and Jane and a show based on Dr. Seuss’ beloved book Green Eggs and Ham. Members are even getting series that feature DreamWorks Animation characters, thanks to a 2013 deal.
To battle it out with Netflix and Amazon, HBO has no choice but to beef up its entertainment for kids. The premium provider’s content may rake in awards, but it lacks the broad appeal across demographics that its rival streaming services have built up. A staple show like Sesame Street is a great place to start, and you can bet that there’s more to come.