Transparent is key, but the long-term success of Amazon Studios may hinge on children's programming

For avid Amazon shoppers, $99 per year for Prime pays for itself with free shipping. But in the last two years the service has become so much more, due in large part to the breadth of Amazon’s film and TV library, which rivals that of Netflix, and Amazon Studious.

Amazon Studios, which launched in 2010, scored its first major victory this past year with its timely and multi-Golden Globes winning series Transparent. It has also produced Bosch, Mozart in the Jungle, and Alpha House.

Perhaps more important in the over-the-top and streaming battle than critically acclaimed adult-geared originals is children’s content. As Disney’s and Nickelodeon’s grip on the market loosens, and as children turn to content on different devices and different platforms, there is a tremendous opportunity for the Amazons, Hulus, and Maker Studios of the world to capture the attention of children and parents alike. And, as Amazon may understand better than any company, the consumer journey begins early. This is why the success of Tumble Leaf – which won two Emmy Awards this year, one for Outstanding Children’s Preschool Animated Series – is as important to Amazon as the success of Transparent.

Late last week, Amazon announced that its next kids pilot season of 2015 is now available on Instant Video and the lineup includes four animated kids pilots—The Adventures of Knickerbock Teetertop, Lost In Oz, Lily the Unicorn,and Bear in Underwear—along with two live-action kids pilots—A History of Radness and The Kicks.

Like it does for its adult shows, Amazon will allow children and adults to vote on which of the new kids pilots become full-fledged series.

For more on the success of Tumble Leaf and Amazon’s children’s programming, Found Remote spoke with Tara Sorensen, Head of Kids Programming, Amazon Studios:

Found Remote: Why does 'Tumble Leaf' resonate with children, parents, and critics?

Tara Sorensen: 'Tumble Leaf' aims to foster the creative, joyful, and curious learning spirit of young children while exploring new concepts. The stories and situations incorporated into 'Tumble Leaf' are all meaningful and relevant to kids while providing parents a new and imaginative approach to learning. Fig and his fellow residents of Tumble Leaf help preschoolers learn basic science through play. We work hard to develop programming we think parents will feel good about letting their kids watch, and kids will enjoy watching.

FR: How important is it for a children's series t at least be "watchable" for parents? Or, is your standard to go further, trying to make it enjoyable for parents?

Sorensen: Families are a big part of Amazon’s customer database, so we wanted to make sure we were providing great content within the Prime universe that they also love and want to watch. We work with an educational consultant to develop innovative curriculum. We know that mom needs to feel good about what she’s putting in front of the kids, but kids need to fall in love with the characters and stories.

FR: Is there anything you think is fundamentally different about children's series on over-the-top services versus adult series?

Sorensen: At Amazon Studios, we are breaking out from the type of programming found on linear networks. For our preschool series, we have a unique “View and Do” call to action that encourages children, after watching the episode, to go offline and play, create or make. One can see the effectiveness of this method from our customers’ sharing their homemade projects and comments left on the site.

FR: How do streaming services change things, if at all, for children's programming? What type of data are you seeing about how the show is viewed in terms of devices used (i.e. TV/PC/mobile/tablet)?

Sorensen: I have two children aged 8 and 9, and I personally was seeing the way tablets really change the way they watch TV. Kids don’t have the allegiance today to networks that you and I used to. They’re getting a lot of information from friends and word of mouth. We’ve put them in the driver’s seat by enabling them to watch what they want to watch and where they want to watch it.

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