Netflix buys children's media brand as Disney rivalry heats up

Netflix acquired the StoryBots children’s media brand as the world’s largest streaming service prepares to challenge rival Walt Disney’s kid-friendly online platform scheduled to start in November.

Under the deal, StoryBots creators Gregg and Evan Spiridellis will produce more original content including series and short-form specials, Netflix said on Thursday, without disclosing terms.

Buying StoryBots and expanding its programming may help Netflix draw more children and parents, a battleground market as family-focused Disney plans to start offering movies and shows from its Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars franchises online later this year. Netflix already streams “Ask the StoryBots,” which features cylindrical animated characters addressing queries such as “What makes a bird a bird,” and “What are good carbohydrates”.

While Netflix and Disney square off over families, competition in the broader industry is likely to get even hotter. Apple, AT&T and Comcast are also among the cash-rich giants planning streaming services as TV viewers shift away from cable TV to video-on-demand platforms.

What Disney sees streaming doing to its bottom-line outlook

Los Gatos, California-based Netflix has more than 148 million paid subscribers worldwide and spent about $7bn on programming last year. Still, US growth is slowing, raising pressure to boost its subscriber base internationally. More than 80% of new Netflix customers already hail from overseas, and the company has invested billions of dollars to produce original series across Europe, Latin America and Asia.

Brothers Gregg and Evan Spiridellis developed StoryBots after founding viral video maker JibJab, which was sold to Los Angeles-based private equity firm Catapult Capital in February.

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