The streaming service Netflix is entering the awkward teenage years, at least with its latest programming push.
It is adding exclusive films and television series focused on tweens and teenagers to its slate in the coming months as part of a strategy to position itself as a digital entertainment hub for the postmillennial generation.
Netflix has licensed two films from popular YouTube personalities, including “Smosh: The Movie” from the creators of the YouTube comedy channel of the same name, which has more than 21 million YouTube subscribers, and “Bad Night” featuring YouTube stars Jenn McAllister and Lauren Luthringshausen.
It also has picked up “Lost & Found Music Studios,” a half-hour original series about a group of young musicians; “Degrassi: Next Class” about homophobia, racism, substance abuse and other issues teenagers face as they prepare to enter adulthood; and “Fuller House,” the much anticipated sequel to the 1990s hit sitcom “Full House.”
Netflix is trying to fill a void that exists across the media market, Eric Barmack, Netflix’s vice president of global independent content, said in an interview last week. He said some traditional and digital outlets offer programming that appeals to younger children and young adults, but scripted entertainment focused on teenagers is scarce.
Traditional media organizations have faced stark challenges keeping pace with the fast-shifting habits of young viewers. As tweens and teenagers spend a surging amount of time on apps and the Web, the amount of time they are spending watching traditional television is plummeting. MTV, long considered the hot spot for teenagers, suffered a 17 percent decline in ratings in the second quarter this year compared with a year earlier, according to analysts’ estimates.
“It is a transformation of media,” said David B. Pakman, a venture capitalist at Venrock who studies the media habits of teenagers in attempts to predict broader industry trends. “I am convinced very few people really understand it.”
Creating a hub for teenagers fits into Netflix’s quest to build a personalized service that offers something for everyone.
“Our goal is to have content that is as broad as the human experience,” Barmack said.
Netflix has nearly 63 million global subscribers, but it does not break them down by age group. It is pouring billions of dollars into television and film content, devoting more of its investment to original series, documentaries and feature films.
Netflix and other online outlets have made a push to acquire and develop their own original commercial-free children’s series, which is an important draw for parents. Appealing to teenagers also is important, both to groom future generations of subscribers and to keep their parents subscribing. About a quarter of parents of 7- to 17-year-olds said their children’s opinion “counts a lot” when they are deciding on digital subscriptions for services such as Netflix, Spotify and Hulu, according to a recent Cassandra Report about that age group, described by some as Generation Z.
With its new lineup of movies and series that focus on teenagers, Netflix is trying to offer “a little bit of everything” to its viewers worldwide, Barmack said. To market the new titles, Netflix will rely on its personalization engine to recommend series and films to the people who are most likely to enjoy them.
Netflix has offered today’s teenagers the chance to discover series such as “Gilmore Girls,” “Gossip Girl” and “Friends” that appealed to past generations of teenagers.