Kids’ tv creator Chris Nee recently spoke to The Hollywood Reporter and revealed that her 2018 overall deal at Netflix was not renewed when it ended in January and that she believes many streamers don’t, and never did, understand kids’ content.
“They didn’t know this business and that it’s fundamentally different from the adult side of the business,” she told the publication. “[T]he kids business, in particular, is really specific and it often works in opposition to how things work for adults.”
Nee never comes off as bitter or angry during the interview, but instead seems frustrated by her time at Netflix and confident that she understands why so many children’s properties aren’t finding success there.
As one of this generation’s most prolific creators of kids’ content, Nee’s criticisms carry more weight than the average person. Her credits include creating Doc McStuffins, Ridley Jones, and Ada Twist, Scientist, and earlier in her career she worked on classic shows including Blue’s Clues and Sesame Street.
Here are five takeaways from Nee’s THR interview.
A Technical Problem
A fundamental problem that Nee noticed at Netflix is that the platform intentionally made sure that subscribers weren’t pushed the same thing twice. That’s a strategy that may work for fickle adults who want to feel like they are getting the most out of a subscription, but according to Nee, “rewatching is the bread-and-butter of younger kids’ tv.”
She says that on average, kids would watch the same episode of Blues Clues five times in a row. Nee says that even on a kids’ Netflix profile, shows were being filtered off the main landing page. That’s a problem with young kids who can’t type or spell yet to look for their favorite titles. She says a better strategy would be to leave the shows that kid users are watching on their main page for a set period, or until the user stops clicking on it.
Lack of Brand Building
One thing that Nee says many streamers are missing is brand identity. Comparing the rest of the pack to Disney, she argues that any Mickey Mouse title Disney puts out is likely to catch the attention of young viewers, who already have a relationship with the character.
According to Nee, many streamers intentionally promote a lack of identity, instead promising that subscribers can find anything they’re looking for. “Well I really think it’s too much, certainly for the preschool space,” she says.
Beyond the Screen
Nee says that many streamers haven’t grasped that with kids’ content, merchandising “is an expansion of your relationship with a show.” It’s a difficult situation she says, because in order to sell toys, clothes, and all the other goodies kids beg their parents for, manufacturers want to see a property that has longevity, which platforms that are constantly commissioning and canceling programs can’t provide.
In the interview, Nee, like many before her, was critical of how Netflix promotes, or maybe doesn’t, many of its titles. Speaking about an episode of Ridley Jones which guest starred Cindy Lauper, Nee says, “Certainly at a Disney, they would’ve promoted the hell out of that episode.” Not putting all the blame on weak marketing, Nee added, “And it could be that all of [my] shows were terrible, but I don’t think that that’s the case. They’re really different series, and I could see either one of them having done really well in a different space.”
Room for Hope
Wrapping up the conversation, Nee was asked for any bright spots she sees in the industry and was quick to single out Bluey as the kind of content that deserves to do well. She praised the creator-driven nature of the show and says it earned its large audience. After name-dropping Netflix’s most-watched kid’s animated series of 2022, Cocomelon, Nee expressed concern. “I don’t want to make shows that way,” she says.
Pictured at top: Ada Twist, Scientist; Chris Nee.