Netflix and Nickelodeon have announced a renewal of their mutual defense pact as the world moves into the age of the Streaming Wars™; an era of terror from which we may never recover. As part of this new “multi-year output deal,” Nickelodeon Studios will continue to produce new programming for Netflix, as it has already done to great success. Netflix’s press release doesn’t state how many multi-years the deal is good for, when we can expect to learn more about what’s coming down the pipeline, or how many of Nickelodeon’s properties are covered by the deal — just that Nick will make “feature films and television series” that focus on “the Nickelodeon library of characters as well as all-new IP.”
Nickelodeon already produced two original short features for Netflix, which dropped earlier this year to broad critical acclaim. Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling was, IMO at least, a tour de gosh-darn force, maintaining everything about the original that mattered while pushing a modern (heh), progressive message about change and acceptance. Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus also hit the nail squarely on the head and delivered trademark Zim wackiness, though it should be said that compared to Static Cling, Florpus took zero risks in terms of tone, messaging, or content. I really enjoyed having new, good Invader Zim in my life, but that’s all it was. Florpus made no effort to transcend the borders of the original work, as Static Cling did so successfully.
Anyway, today’s announcement takes place in the shadow of yesterday’s Disney+ launch and the looming CBS/Viacom merger, through which Nickelodeon becomes part of the churning machine responsible for The Big Bang Theory and what I have to assume are other programs. It would follow that Nickelodeon’s tremendous back catalogue of beloved content would show up on CBS’ All Access streaming service once the merger is completed, but neither company has said.
So how does this new Netflix thing play into the merger? I’m guessing that it doesn’t, at least for now. The terms of this announcement are very vague, and when you’re announcing a content deal, you’re only vague if you have to be. If Netflix had locked down the rights to 1990s Nickelodeon shows in addition to these new projects, it would sing it from the mountaintop in an effort to drown out the deafening Disney+ din. My guess is that this agreement is, as of right now at least, exactly what they’re saying it is: a loose commitment to continue making secondary Nickelodeon products for Netflix, for an indeterminate amount of time.
There’s definitely, irrefutably someone at Viacom whose entire job is to lock down the spiderweb of rights issues that make up early 90s Nickelodeon content, with the expressed purpose of getting said content onto CBS All Access as quickly as possible. But no one has ever been able to solve this problem — there’s a reason Pete & Pete is so hard to watch in 2019 — so there’s no reason to believe that it might be solved anytime soon. And in the meantime, Viacom might as well piggyback off Netflix and make some cash producing animated shorts for tired millennials looking to briefly recapture the fleeting joy of their youth.