Hulu Makes Big Kids Programming Push With New Disney Channel Deal

Lands exclusive rights to 7 series

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Hulu, Netflix and Amazon's battle for childrens programming has become just as heated as the one over shows for adults. Today, Hulu landed a big coup in its bid to attract kids to its service: a new deal to stream Disney Channel programming, which has traditionally aired on Netflix.

The company announced the deal with the Disney-ABC Television Group for the exclusive SVOD rights to past seasons of seven Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD series.

The deal includes Disney Channel's K.C. Undercover, Dog With a Blog and Austin & Ally, Disney XD's Gravity Falls and Star vs. The Forces of Evil, and Disney Junior's Sheriff Callie's Wild West and Henry Hugglemonster. Previous seasons will be available to stream later this month, with subsequent seasons added the day after the last episode of each season airs.

The agreement also covers non-exclusive rights to more than 20 Disney Channel Original Moves, including Cloud 9, Teen Beach Movie and Kim Possible Movie: So the Drama.

It's Hulu's largest deal yet for Disney Channel programming, which usually migrates to Netflix after being available on Disney's apps and platforms. In March 2015, Hulu had licensed Disney Junior's DocMcStuffins and Bunnytown, but this is the first time the service had landed SVOD rights to Disney Channel or Disney XD content.

Today's deal "helps complete the portfolio of our kids series," said Lisa Holme, vp, content acquisition for Hulu, and caps a year-long effort to expand Hulu's childrens programing offerings. In April 2015, Hulu partnered with Cartoon Network for SVOD rights to shows like Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Dexter's Laboratory. Last October, it expanded its partnership with Viacom for exclusive current and former Nickelodeon shows like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Penguins of Madagascar, as well as nonexclusive rights to shows like SpongeBob SquarePants and Ren & Stimpy. In March, it landed exclusive SVOD rights to PBS Kids' Curious George.

With each of Hulu's new deals for kids programming, "the viewership of the entire category just keeps going. We haven't hit diminishing returns yet," said Holme. "It's one of our priorities because we're trying to make Hulu a really satisfying product for the whole home, and the more folks within a household that are using Hulu, the better."

"The more people that are in the household using our subscription that love us, the better chance we have of keeping them around for a long, long time," said Holme.

Especially now that Hulu now offers programming for fans for all the major kids networks. "Some households are Nickelodeon households, some households are Cartoon Network households, some households are Disney households," said Holme. "It helps with one of our strategies, which is to make sure that we have programming for kids of all ages and stages. They grow up pretty rapidly and they might age out of a preschool show in three years and we really want to have the next thing that they'll be interested in, and the next thing."

To that end, today's deal came together because Hulu was initially looking to add more girls-oriented live-action programming to its slate, which it found in Disney Channel's Austin & Ally and K.C. Undercover. "That's filling out an area of our content portfolio which we didn't have as well represented," said Holmes.

Netflix also made some big moves today to boost its kids programming lineup. The streaming service announced five new original animated series for kids—including Skylanders Academy (based on the Skylanders) video game and Llama Llama (based on the book series)—while renewing Kong: King of the Apes for a second season.

On Friday, Amazon will post pilots for six new potential kids series—the live-action Sigmund and the Sea Monsters and animated The Curious Kitty and Friends, Jazz Duck, Morris and the Cow, Toasty Tales and Little Big Awesome—and ask viewers to vote on which shows should be picked up to series.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.