Amazon doubles down on pilots for original kids shows

Following an order for three children's programs from its first round of original TV pilots, Amazon is asking for five more for kids, as online video outfits vie for an audience that keeps subscribers in the fold.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman
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Amazon Studios, the entertainment production arm of the e-commerce giant, said it would make five more original pilots for kids, including the first pilots for older, grade-school-age children.

Amazon, and its bigger rival in online streaming video, Netflix, have been one-upping each other over kids content, both doggedly pursuing an audience that can be a major lure for parent subscribers. When Netflix let its licensing deal with Viacom, including popular kids programs like "Dora the Explorer," lapse, Amazon was quick to snatch it up. Netflix returned with a deal for a trove of more than 300 hours of Dreamworks television.

The programs have appeared to take a bite out of regular TV viewing. Netflix's earlier abundance of Nickelodeon items in its library has been blamed as part of the reason Viacom's ratings on the channel struggled last year.

Satisfying kids' yen to watch their favorite characters -- and often the exact same show -- over and over has proven to be powerful way for online subscription video services to keep subscribers from defecting. And as players like Netflix grow as big as they have, keeping subscribers becomes as important as winning new ones.

Earlier this year, Amazon ordered up handful of kids pilots and then chose to greenlight three for production: "Annebots," "Creative Galaxy," and Tumbleaf" to run exclusively on its site later this year and early next year.

As it did in its first round of pilots, the new ones will stream on Amazon Instant Video and Lovefilm in the U.K. for customers to watch, provide feedback, and help determine which shows should be produced as series.

The new pilots include live-action and animated programming for older children ages 6 to 11 years old and continuing with programming for preschool-aged children.