Starz expands, promises 40% larger content library, more kids’ shows by year-end

As premium cable networks transition to become over-the-top services aimed at cord cutters, they’re finding that they need to offer more diverse content libraries, in order to compete with streaming giants like Netflix. HBO tackled this problem a couple of years ago, by partnering with Sesame Workshop to secure the multi-season rights to “Sesame Street,” and other kids’ shows. Today, competitor Starz says it’s doubling down on kids programming, as well, with plans to grow its content selection by more than 60 distinct children’s TV series by the end of the year.

The network says, in total, it plans to expand its service’s content library by 40 percent to reach nearly 7,700 total selections by year-end.

A part of that investment is kids’ TV.

This is a critical area for streaming services to address, companies are finding. All the major services competing in this space – including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and HBO – have made investments in children’s TV, either in terms of funding their own original programming, making strategic acquisitions of kids’ fare, or both.

The reason? Because parents with small children make up a huge portion of streaming services’ customer base. Around half of Netflix members watch kids TV shows and movies, the company has said in the past, for example. It even recently debuted a new, complex format for storytelling, aimed at kids, with “choose-your-own-adventure” style shows as another means of getting parents to subscribe.

As networks like HBO, Cinemax and Starz transition their pay TV subscriber base to streaming TV services and over-the-top offerings, they too need to better position themselves as services the whole family can enjoy. To that end, kids’ programming becomes increasingly important.

In addition to Sesame Street, for example, HBO offers others kids’ programming both from Sesame Workshop and beyond, as well as a selection of family movies, all of which mom or dad can lock down through HBO’s parental controls.

However, compared with services like Netflix or Amazon, HBO’s kids lineup is still rather small. That’s where Starz aims to compete. Though it doesn’t have a flagship series like HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” the network is attracting adults through original series like the critically acclaimed “American Gods,” plus “Power,” “Outlander,” and others, and is airing a number of movies both kids and parents like, such as “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and “Inside Out.”

Starz’ new lineup of kids’ shows includes “The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss,” “The Cat in the Hat (TV specials),” “Jim Henson’s The Storyteller,” “Naruto,” “Garfield and Friends,” and others.

The network also carries other well-known kids’ titles including “Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-Lot,” “The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3,” “Eloise, The Animated series,” “Yu-Gi-Oh,” “Inspector Gadget,” “The Adventures of Paddington Bear,” “Sonic The Hedgehog,” “Sabrina, The Animated Series,” “Bob the Builder,” “Thomas and Friends,” and “Now You Know,” and more.

According Starz, kids programming has grown by a factor of ten since the app launched, and there are now nearly 1,250 TV episodes and movies on its service. In total, Starz has grown its content library by over 125 percent to 5,500 titles in the past 14 months.

And the network’s app now has over a million subscribers since its launch in spring of last year.

In addition to expanding kids’ shows, Starz is investing in Spanish-language programming, with more than 300 Spanish-language movies and telenovela episodes being added, as well. The new content, which available to tv subscribers and over-the-top streamers, will roll out over the course of the year.