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Is Streaming The Future of Anime Kids' Programming?

by Justin Sevakis,

Vee asks:

I was recently browsing through Netflix and came across "Glitter Force". It looked familiar so I went online and discovered that it's one series in the Pretty Cure franchise. But, Saban Entertainment (who've been in the game for a very long time) have dubbed it and edited it for general audiences. Rather than securing a TV broadcast in multiple territories, however, Saban have put the show onto Netflix. Do you think this may be the future for dubbing anime that are merchandise heavy and targeted towards children - since I've read about many failed attempts to get these kinds of anime exported to the western world (Sgt. Frog, Mermaid Melody, etc) and it always seems like the TV stations hold the keys to the kingdom. Now, since Netflix may possibly have a more lax approach to their service and can broadcast in multiple territories at once, will there be more anime exported like this?

Maybe? Streaming in general is almost certainly the future of kids' video programming. Over the last five years, the kids' demographic of ages 2-11 have been falling away from traditional television at an astonishing rate. Nickelodeon's average daily viewership is down roughly 50% since 2010, and Disney Channel is also in free-fall. (Cartoon Network has been more or less stable over this time, but had a much smaller audience to begin with.) Discovery Family (formerly Hub) and Sprout have both barely shown up as a blip on the radar in terms of ratings.

It's no secret that as a demographic, kids are spending more and more time away from the big TV, and an ever-increasing amount of time with a tablet or smartphone in their hand. Of course, they're doing more on these devices than just watching streaming video, but they're doing plenty of that -- and those cable networks have been desperately shoveling money at their own online video platforms in order to stay relevant. And competing with those long established kids' networks in the streaming space is Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, all of whom are producing and acquiring original and/or premiere content for kids. And HBO, who is in a similar position, has also been spending big on kids' content, most famously with its deal for Sesame Street.

Netflix hasn't been spending as much money on original programming for kids as it has on its programming for adults, but for the last two years the streaming company been funding quite a few shows meant for kids: Turbo FAST, VeggieTales in the House, All Hail King Julien, The Adventures of Puss in Boots, Dinotrux, The Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show, Popples, Care Bears and Cousins, Ever After High, and Dawn of the Croods have all been animated directly for Netflix, and the first 4 of those are now in their second season. The service also made live action shows Richie Rich and Project Mc^2 and produced new seasons of The Problem Solverz, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and DreamWorks Dragons for the same demographic.

Whether any of these are successes or not, no one knows: Netflix doesn't share their viewership data with anybody, ever. But for shows that are intended to reach a wide, child-oriented audience, as kids' interest steadily decreases in cable TV, online streaming will be the only place to find them. That includes original content, as well as that which was developed in Japan and then adapted for Western audiences. Unfortunately, not all households can afford smartphones, tablets and internet access either, so these platforms' lack of accessibility to lower income children is also a concern.

But are kids watching? I suppose if they weren't, Netflix wouldn't keep investing in shows like this, but that aside, we have very little to go on. But I do suspect that kids are acutely aware of just how many choices lay before them. Between YouTube, Crunchyroll, Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, dedicated Disney apps, and an ever increasing sea of new streaming services out there, I think both kids and adults alike are all practically drowning in shows fighting for their attention. And as the choices become more and more vast, it will become harder and harder for a new show to stand out from the crowd.

Got questions for me? Send them in! The e-mail address, as always, is answerman (at!) animenewsnetwork.com.

Justin Sevakis is the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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