June 18--Netflix made another aggressive move to become the HBO of online television Monday by announcing a deal with DreamWorks Animation, which will create more than 300 hours of original programs based on fan-favorite films such as "Shrek" and "Kung Fu Panda."
The multiyear deal with DreamWorks is the biggest of its kind to date for Netflix, which has been gaining subscribers by offering new, made-for-streaming series like the "Arrested Development" revival that debuted Memorial Day weekend.
Financial terms were not announced, but the companies said in a press release that the first DreamWorks shows are expected to appear in 2014 and "will be inspired by characters" from the studio's movies, which also includes "How to Train Your Dragon" and "Madagascar."
In addition, the online programs will feature characters from a library of shows from Classic Media, which DreamWorks bought in 2012. Classic Media is home to old-time children's TV classics like "Rocky and Bullwinkle," "Fractured Fairy Tales," "Casper the Friendly Ghost," "Lassie," "George of the Jungle" and "Underdog."
This isn't the first Netflix-DreamWorks collaboration. In February, the companies announced a deal for "Turbo F.A.S.T.," an animated series based on the new DreamWorks movie "Turbo" that hits theaters on July 17.
"This deal represents a major expansion of what's already a phenomenal relationship, allowing us to bring beloved DreamWorks characters to the 40 countries where Netflix operates and setting the stage for us to innovate together as we expand into new markets," Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said in a statement.
Netflix has been gaining subscribers with original adult programming like "Arrested Development," "House of Cards" and "Hemlock Grove." Netflix, which now has 36 million subscribers worldwide, has also announced it will offer all seven episodes of "Derek," an original comedy-drama from "The Office" creator Ricky Gervais, on Sept. 12.
However, parents have given the Los Gatos company flack because it could not come to terms with Viacom to keep offering its library of popular children's shows from Nickelodeon. Shows like "Dora the Explorer" and "SpongeBob SquarePants" disappeared from Netflix just as season four of "Arrested Development" became available. Earlier this month, Viacom signed a deal to bring those series to Amazon, which is trying to build up its streaming video library to compete with Netflix.
But Netflix has instead turned to two of Hollywood's top family movie and TV studios. Last month, Netflix announced another multi-year licensing agreement with the Disney/ABC Television Group that gives Netflix exclusive rights to five Disney series, including "Jake and the Never Land Pirates."
DreamWorks views the deal with Netflix as a chance to branch from the big screen to small-screen TV and computer monitors.
"This is an unprecedented commitment to original content in the Internet television space," Hollywood mogul and DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said in a statement. "Netflix is a visionary company that continues to redefine the way audiences watch television."
Benny Evangelista is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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