Andy Yeatman On Netflix Kids’ Strategy

Andy Yeatman, the head of global kids’ content at Netflix, talked about the platform’s commissioning and acquisition strategy in his MIPJunior keynote today, which was followed by a Q&A with World Screen’s Anna Carugati.

The platform has some 104 million subscribers in 190 countries worldwide, with over 125 million hours viewed per day. “A good portion is on kids’ and family content,” Yeatman said. “Our goal is to be the service kids all around the world can’t do without, and that parents trust. We want kids of all ages to love Netflix, different interests, tastes, preferences. We’re also cognizant that at the end of the day, it’s the parents who sign up for Netflix, who pay the monthly fee. It’s really important that parents feel good about the role that Netflix is playing in their kids’ lives.”

The key strategic tenets for achieving that goal includes delivering “premium, distinctive storytelling…. We want to have a favorite show for every kid in the household. That means programming an incredibly diverse slate.”

That means working with the best creative talent from all over the world. “Our goal is to support that creative talent in order to do the best work of their lives.”

Putting all episodes up at once enables creators to “tell more compelling, engaging stories. We also don’t have a schedule to fill, so episodes don’t have to be certain length, we don’t need a certain number of episodes. We’re really flexible in terms of the format.”

Episodes don’t need to be 11 or 22 minutes, Yeatman added. “And we do things like launch movies at the same time as series. We’re blurring the lines between what a movie is and what a series is.”

Yeatman also discussed moving away from the “standard episodic structure. We’ll actually order a certain number of minutes or hours and then work with the creators to figure out, some will be episodes, some specials, maybe some short-form content as well. We’re making sure the property stays present in kids’ minds.”

The platform is also experimenting with interactive storytelling. “We’re leveraging the fact that it’s an on-demand service. Our platform is inherently interactive. We’re building tools so that creators can tell more engaging, immersive stories by giving the viewer the opportunity to make choices within the story.”

Netflix did two branching-narrative specials this year, Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale and Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile. “The viewers could make choices for the characters. We were really pleased with the response we got from audiences. Kids rewatch the specials a lot. Based on those results we’re leaning into this more and next year will do some more ambitious interactive formats.”

Yeatman also noted that personalization is a key differentiator for Netflix. “We like to say there are 104 million different versions of Netflix.”

He then offered up some stats, noting that more than half of subscribers watch kids and family content every week. That audience is growing, especially in the international market. “This past quarter, international surpassed the U.S.—we have more Netflix members watching kids’ content outside of the U.S. than inside the U.S.”

Netflix is also able to generate increasingly large audiences, while linear viewership continues to decline. In the year to date, four shows have been watched by over 15 million households, 17 shows by over 10 million, 87 shows by over 5 million households and over 200 shows by at least 2 million households.

These trends give Netflix the confidence to invest more in kids’ content, especially originals. “This year we’ll have 37 shows across preschool, animation and live action.”

A key evolution over the last few years has been Netflix serving as a studio as well as a network. “We’re owning as well as licensing content, which means we can get into projects at any stage of their development. We will start to do selective development for projects we’re particularly excited about owning.”

Another big development has been the creation of an L&M team.

Programming for a global audience, Netflix currently has kids’ content from 49 countries, with almost half of the catalog produced outside of the U.S.

On the formula for what can work on Netflix globally, Yeatman identified some key traits a show should have. “Content that is highly visual, action, physical comedy. An easily understandable hook. It’s really important that the image that represents your show is distinct and clearly gets across what the show is about. Fantasy works well, universal themes such as family and friendship. Globally recognizable IP is always a step up. And a unique, specific point of view.”

Discussing how producers can get content onto Netflix, Yeatman identified three routes. The first is global original commissions, where Netflix has creative control. “It has to be top IP in a local market. Or a format that is proven to travel well. We want to work with the top studios and creators in those markets to create something that feels distinct from what’s on TV in the market. And we’re looking for programming that fills gaps in our slate.”

The new international originals announced by Yeatman at MIPJunior are Mighty Little Bheem, from India’s Green Gold Animation, and Aurora World’s YooHoo & Friends, which is repped by Mondo TV and originates from a Korean toy brand.

The second route is co-productions, where Netflix will help complete the financing and take global rights outside of the home market, where it has a second window. “The level of creative input depends on when we come in and the level of financing.”

Yeatman noted that the majority of kids’ content on Netflix is and will continue to be second-window acquisitions. The platform today announced the acquisition of Cleo & Cuquin from Televisa and Anima Kitchent.

Yeatman then sat down for a Q&A with World Screen’s group editorial director, Anna Carugati. Asked about the biggest mindset change producers accustomed to creating content for linear have to make, Yeatman responded, “It’s getting outside of thinking a show has to be 52 11-minute episodes or has to conform to a specific brand identity. We want a distinct, specific creative vision. And we don’t do pilots, so we want to hear what the vision is for the season.”

Carugati asked Yeatman about how kids’ viewing habits on Netflix differ from the platform’s adult subscribers. “There is definitely more repeat viewing for kids’ shows, but it varies dramatically based on the type of show,” he replied. Older-skewing, more serialized shows are less likely to be repeated.

The interactive storytelling initiative may extend to international originals as well, Yeatman said, noting “these projects take a long time.”

He also talked about Netflix’s innovative promo stunts for kids, such as its New Year’s Eve countdown videos and its birthday videos where characters from shows sing “Happy Birthday.”

On the role of parents in determining kids’ viewing, Yeatman noted, “Parents play a huge role in getting and keeping Netflix. We find that kids by the age of 4 and 5 are choosing for themselves. At the same time, we want parents to feel good about what their kids are watching. The kids’ section is a gated area. We have a team of dozens and dozens of experts watching every single episode of every show and tagging them with lots of different tags and all of that goes into our algorithms, which determines what is promoted to the kid.”

On Netflix’s message to producers, Yeatman said, “We want to set you up to do the best creative work of your lives. That’s through flexibility in how we release the content, that’s through resources.”