Netflix has spent years trying to become the new go-to home for kids’ and family entertainment, investing billions in original content and licensing popular series from some of the biggest household names, including Nickelodeon and Dreamworks. Now, Netflix is planting another flag in the ground with a new exclusive deal, making all future episodes of Pokémon exclusive to its platform in the US.
The new deal means the first 12 episodes of Pokémon Journeys: The Series, the 23rd season of the iconic anime franchise, will be available to stream on Netflix starting June 12th, 2020. Future episodes will be added to Netflix every quarter for the rest of the season, according to the company. The Pokémon Company International has struck other deals with broadcasters around the world, but in the US, Pokémon is about to become a streaming exclusive.
“With their tremendous reach and ability for fans to enjoy content anytime and anywhere, Netflix is the ideal partner to premiere new episodes of the beloved animated Pokémon series in the US,” Emily Arons, senior vice president of international business at The Pokémon Company International, said in a press release.
Prior to Netflix’s deal, Pokémon aired on networks like Cartoon Network (owned by WarnerMedia) and Disney XD in the United States. More recently, Netflix has started distributing various Pokémon titles, including the most recent Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back—Evolution, a new take on one of the series’ most popular films. Past episodes of Pokémon seasons are also available on Netflix.
Pokémon is one of the most popular franchises around the world, and one of the most recognizable anime series ever produced — both areas in which Netflix wants to keep investing. Melissa Cobb, vice president of kids’ and family content for Netflix, told the Los Angeles Times in 2018 that “animation is really a core area,” with analyst firms estimating that Netflix spent just over $1.1 billion on animation content that year alone. More than 60 percent of Netflix users engage with kids’ and family content, Cobb told The New York Times last year, and it’s an area Netflix clearly sees as a growing sector.
Netflix is the new destination spot for kids’ content. Disney is focusing on its streaming service, Disney Plus, bringing a number of new originals to that platform instead of solely focusing on its cable alternatives, Disney Channel and Disney XD. ViacomCBS has licensed a number of its titles, including parts of Spongebob Squarepants, to Netflix and Amazon. Kids are spending more time watching video online, and Netflix, one of the biggest distributors of online video, is trying to meet that audience demand.
Perhaps the most exemplary case of how fast the shift in viewing from traditional cable to streaming has been, kids’ television has “lost nearly 70 percent of its audience since its peak in 2011, according to Bernstein Research analyst Todd Juenger,” Forbes reported last year. For studios like The Pokémon Company International, trying to find the biggest audience for a product that might be considered niche means going to where people want to watch shows. Right now, that’s streaming — and even more so, it’s Netflix.
The push for kids’ entertainment to transition to streaming is not all thanks to Netflix. YouTube is also a major player in the fight for kids’ and families’ attention. Yet Netflix is gearing up to invest billions of dollars in entertainment focused at a generation of TV watchers who don’t wait around for 11AM to hit so they can watch X-Men: Evolution on cable.
“We continue to believe there is nothing Viacom can do to compel kids and teenagers to put down their iPads and their TikTok and sit in front of a TV set to watch a show ‘when it comes on,’” Juenger wrote, as reported by Forbes.
Netflix is one of the few apps that people automatically turn to when looking for something to watch, and Netflix wants to stay in that spot, competing against some of its biggest competitors like Disney Plus. “Are we kicking up our kids and family content, and animation? You bet,” CEO Reed Hastings said on a recent earnings call.
Pokémon is just the latest addition to Netflix’s race to dominance in kids’ entertainment. The company also secured the international rights to Studio Ghibli’s library, but lost out on its domestic rights to WarnerMedia’s new streaming service, HBO Max. Netflix isn’t the only streaming service trying to fight for kids’ attention or anime fans. HBO Max can pull from Cartoon Network and Crunchyroll, one of the most popular dedicated streaming services. Disney is Disney. Now, Netflix adding exclusive Pokémon episodes to its repertoire is just another show of strength from the streamer as the competition heats up.