HBO Max Adds More Kids Shows in Pursuit of Booming Disney+

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HBO Max plans to dramatically expand its kids programming, opening a new front in the streaming battle with Walt Disney Co. and Netflix Inc.

The service’s parent, AT&T Inc.’s WarnerMedia, plans to create more than 300 hours of programming to debut on HBO Max and Cartoon Network channels later this year. WarnerMedia said Wednesday that it’s focusing especially on making more animated and live-action shows for girls and their families to watch together.

The company is trying to take the HBO brand, which isn’t especially known for kids fare, to a broader audience. The idea is that subscribers are less likely to cancel services that appeal to every member of the family. WarnerMedia is also trying to bolster the Cartoon Network, where ratings have declined over the years as younger viewers gravitated to YouTube and Netflix.

HBO Max finished 2020 with 17.2 million subscribers, while Netflix exceeded more than 200 million and Disney+ grew to almost 95 million.

The new shows will include a second season of “Gremlins,” an animated prequel to the film franchise, and a spinoff of the Cartoon Network series “Teen Titans Go!” A show in development called “Gross Girls” follows two friends trying to survive middle school. Another features a curious tween investigative journalist-podcaster and her sidekick, Tweety bird, as they solve local mysteries.

Many of the new shows will be appear both on the new streaming service and Cartoon Network, a traditional cable channel. Tom Ascheim, the head of kids programming at Warner Bros. Entertainment, said viewers tend to find the outlet that appeals to them and don’t switch back and forth.

“If we want to serve our customer well, we can serve them on each platform without damaging either one of them,” he said in an interview.

Kids shows were an early success for HBO Max when it debuted in May. “Looney Tunes Cartoons,” a new take on classic characters Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, was the most in-demand original show shortly after the service launched, according to Parrot Analytics, a firm that gauges the popularity of TV shows based on social media, fan ratings and piracy. “The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo,” a talk show hosted by the “Sesame Street” character, was second.

The preschool audience, a big focus for the new shows, represents as much as half of the viewers and half of toy sales, Jean-Paul Colaco, the head of advertising sales at WarnerMedia, said in the interview.

“That’s an important audience to reach and help brands build affinity early on,” he said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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