Netflix Keeps Driving For Original Content, Inks Largest Deal Yet For DreamWorks’ Characters

Netflix has been using original programming to power its Internet-TV business, luring viewers to flagship programming such as the Kevin Spacey-vehicle House of Cards. Today another development showing no let up in its strategy to use exclusive content created to air on its platform to put clear blue water between its streaming service and rivals’: it has inked its largest original content deal yet, with DreamWorks Animation.

Netflix’s other stated goal — as Ted Sarandos, chief content officer, expressed it to GQ earlier this year — is ”to become HBO faster than HBO can become us”. So it’s not just native online streaming rivals like Amazon Instant Video it’s pushing to elbow past here.

There are no figures on the multi-year deal with DreamWorks — not unusual, since Netflix has never confirmed how much it spent on House of Cards. But the streaming service said the agreement is “the largest deal for original first-run content in Netflix history”. What exactly is Netflix buying? First dibs on some DreamWorks Animation’s characters moving into TV, in a branded collection of shows that will comprise more than 300 hours of new programming.

There’s no word yet on exactly which of DreamWorks’ characters will be translated from silver screen to adventures destined for the living room but the studio owns the IP to the characters like Shrek and Kung Fu Panda, to name two. The first TV series from the original programming collaboration is expected to begin airing on Netflix next year, and will be shown in all the territories in which it operates (currently some 40 countries).

The deal between Netflix and DreamWorks builds on an earlier agreement between the pair, announced back in February, for a Netflix Original Series for kids based on DreamWorks’ film Turbo — due to premier next month. That agreement will bring an episodic animated series, called Turbo F.A.S.T, to Netflix in December, picking up the character from where the feature film sets it down.

Also today Netflix said viewers in the U.S. and Latin America will get exclusive access to DreamWorks Animation feature films next year, including The Croods, Turbo and Mr Peabody and Sherman.

Kids’ content is of a course a big pull for the parents who pay the streaming TV bills — and as AllThingsD‘s Peter Kafka points out, Netflix’s deal with Viacom’s Nickelodeon expired last month, leaving a colourful cartoon-shaped hole in its portfolio. Amazon then stepped in and bagged Viacom’s portfolio.