Streaming TV programming for kids embraces iconic brands

Jan 7, 2020, 10:51 AM
This image released by Apple shows the character Snoopy in a scene from an animated short "Snoopy i...
This image released by Apple shows the character Snoopy in a scene from an animated short "Snoopy in Space." Apple TV Plus has carved out prominent roles for Charlie Brown's floppy-eared beagle and puppets from the famed Sesame Workshop in its slate of kid and family friendly programs. (Apple via AP)
(Apple via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — New technology. Same furry faces.

When Apple was thinking about what kind of children’s TV programming it wanted on its new streaming service, it doubled down on two multi-generational crowd-pleasers — Snoopy and “Sesame Street.”

Apple TV Plus has carved out prominent roles for Charlie Brown’s floppy-eared beagle and for puppets from the famed Sesame Workshop in its slate of kid and family-friendly programs.

“Both Snoopy and Sesame Workshop are crown jewels of the last decades in what family entertainment looks like. There’s a reason that we went proactively to those two entities,” said Zack Van Amburg, who is Apple’s head of worldwide video alongside Jamie Erlicht.

The decision to use existing children’s icons as the bedrock for the fledgling platform is one shared by several other streaming services, often with one eye on looming Netflix, the world’s largest streamer with an arsenal of titles attracting kids and families.

The services are competing for kids’ eyeballs not only from each other but also from shows on YouTube and traditional broadcast channels. Often the safest way forward is piggybacking on established titles that parents already know from their childhood and leaning into the nostalgia.

Amazon Prime Video has rebooted “ Clifford the Big Red Dog ” and has original shows featuring Kung-Fu Panda, Pete the Cat, and Rocky and Bullwinkle. CBS All Access has series built on the classic book “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” and the classic ‘toon “Danger Mouse.”

Disney Plus is offering shorts starring Forky from “Toy Story 4” and a reboot of the Hilary Duff-led “Lizzie McGuire,” another show built around Phineas & Ferb, plus a new series based on Marvel Comics’ “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” And, yes, it, too, has Muppets — the unscripted series “Muppets Now.”

Netflix has embraced shows built around Captain Underpants, “Lost in Space,” the book “Green Eggs and Ham,” the comic book “Raising Dion” and even a youth-orientated “Fast and Furious” series.

“Our intention is to offer a lot of choices. When we think about kids or we think about a family audience, one of the things we think about is there’s no two kids that are the same and there are no two families that are the same,” said Melissa Cobb, Netflix’s vice president of kids and family.

Brian Wright, vice president of original series at Netflix, said its creators are hoping to craft content that allows a family to have a shared experience and a shared conversation — wherever that family is.

“We really want to be in the space of building really appealing worlds that have something for everybody,” he said. “One thing that we talk a lot about is reflecting the world back at itself. We want to break down the barriers of who gets to be seen and represented.”

Apple TV Plus subscribers may not get as many shows as Netflix but executives are building a carefully curated list, including a dozen 8-minute “Snoopy in Space” animated shorts, as well as episodes of “The Snoopy Show,” with each installment featuring three seven-minute cartoons starring the Peanuts crew.

They’ll also get two series from Sesame: the live-action preschool-aimed “Helpsters,” which mixes human actors and puppets, including Cody, a new puppet that loves computer coding. And there’s “Ghostwriter,” a live-action fantasy series that re-imagines the Sesame Workshop’s 1992 series.

The streamer will also have the original animated series “Here We Are” based on lauded author Oliver Jeffers’ book, the animated series “Wolfboy and the Everything Factory,” the live-action animated hybrid “Lovely Little Farm” and a pair of animated series based on children’s books “Doug Unplugged” and “Zen Shorts.”

“When you look at the breadth of programming, I think you’ll see a mix of established book properties, reboots of television shows, but also new properties from diverse creators,” said Tara Sorensen, Apple’s head of children’s programming. “Apple as a whole believes in great storytelling and so we want to make sure we represent that across our slate.”

Van Amburg and Sorensen said that what makes Apple TV Plus distinctive from some of the others is a commitment to education and imparting lessons. “We want to make sure parents feel good about watching these programs together as a family but also putting their kids in front of them solo,” said Sorensen.

“I think entertainment in kids’ programming can be purely that — it can be thoughtful and entertaining,” said Van Amburg. “But we said, ‘What if we pushed a little bit further? What if there was actually a message, what if there was a takeaway? What if this was a really safe place for kids and families to come and be entertained but actually become somewhat enlightened?’”

Still to come are plans for kids’ programming from NBC’s upcoming Peacock service, as well as HBO Max. But not everyone is watching the explosion in streaming content uncritically. The Center for Digital Democracy is as wary of streaming content as it is of the Wild West of YouTube videos aimed at kids.

“It’s all about getting their attention so ads can be sold,” said Jeff Chester, the center’s executive director. “The global brands, such as ‘Sesame,’ ‘Clifford’ and others, use YouTube as a way to promote licensed content to sell their own and sponsored videos and branded merchandise.”

Today’s Top Stories


Twitter might get bought by Elon Musk after all. Twitter screen shown on phone...

Musk offers to end legal fight, pay $44B to buy Twitter

The offer comes just two weeks before the Twitter lawsuit seeking to force Musk to go through with the deal goes to trial in Delaware Chancery Court.
3 days ago
supreme court pictured, its new term has started and will hear new cases...
The Associated Press

Supreme Court’s top cases for new term, new Justice Jackson

Already the Supreme Court has said it will decide cases on a range of major issues including affirmative action, voting rights and the rights of LGBTQ people.
4 days ago
TikTok shown on a phone. TikTok is proving influential in poliitics...
DAVID KLEPPER Associated Press

TikTok politics: Candidates turn to it ‘for better or worse’

TikTok isn't just about viral dance challenges anymore, but also a place to shop, learn about beauty, fashion or even politics.
7 days ago
Damage from Hurricane Ian...

Ian returns to hurricane status, meanwhile floods trap many in Florida

Hours after weakening to a tropical depression while crossing the Florida peninsula, Ian regained hurricane strength Thursday evening after emerging over the Atlantic Ocean.
8 days ago
An uprooted tree, toppled by strong winds from the outer bands of Hurricane Ian, rests in a parking...
CURT ANDERSON Associated Press

Ian makes landfall in southwest Florida as Category 4 storm

About 2.5 million people had been ordered to evacuate the area before the storm hit the coast on Wednesday with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph (241 kph).
9 days ago
The White House to ask for less money to fund border wall...

Increase in Venezuelan migration is felt across US

Last month, Venezuelans surpassed Guatemalans and Hondurans to become the second-largest nationality stopped at the U.S. border after Mexicans.
11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Streaming TV programming for kids embraces iconic brands