kids movies

Netflix's secret weapon: Kids' flicks

June 17, 2013: 1:28 PM ET

Its latest deal means that Netflix now has the two biggest animation studios on board, strengthening its position in kids' programming.

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FORTUNE -- Ask any parent who is a Netflix subscriber, and there's a good chance they'll tell you that the video-streamer is much stronger on kids' programming than on adult fare. The difference grows a bit starker with Netflix's new deal to run 300 hours of original animated programming from DreamWorks.

The deal will give Netflix (NFLX) exclusive, first-run rights to the programming starting in 2014 with shows based on characters from DreamWorks' (DWA) movies. Already in the works was a TV adaptation of the upcoming feature Turbo in December.

The agreement strengthens Netflix's positions in both kids' shows and original programming -- its biggest successes in the latter category being the series House of Cards and Arrested Development. Netflix last year announced that it had struck a deal with Disney (DIS) to provide theatrical releases from Disney, Pixar, and Marvel starting in 2016. Between that deal and the latest one, Netflix now has the two biggest animation studios in its stable.

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Such deals, along with plans for more original programming, have pushed Netflix shares up by 244% over the past year. Today alone, the stock has risen by more than 7% as of midday.

Michael Pachter, analyst with Wedbush Securities, remains unimpressed. Netflix remains exposed to rising content costs, he notes. And that's true for original programming as for the rights to existing content. He notes that Netflix "does not own the rights to the underlying content, but instead agrees to fund a portion of the development costs in exchange for the rights to exhibit the content on an exclusive basis for a limited period of time. We continue to believe that Netflix's original content deals are costly, and although we believe that they will serve to add subscribers for the company, it is not clear to us that original programming will have a lasting benefit."

Pachter is hardly alone in his assessment. Netflix's highly uncertain prospects have made the company among the most hotly debated among investors, resulting in sometimes-dizzying volatility.

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