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Netflix, Universal Extend and Expand Animated Film Licensing Deal

New Pact will also include movies from DreamWorks Animation.

Courtesy of Universal/Illumination

Netflix and Universal Filmed Entertainment Group are extending an agreement that will give the streaming giant exclusive rights in the U.S. to the media company’s animated feature films.

The pact is a multi-year licensing deal and guarantees that the streamer will have access to films involving the Minions, Shrek and much more. Under the agreement, Netflix’s window to stream upcoming animated films such as “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” or “The Bad Guys” will begin after a four-month window on Peacock, the in-house streaming service launched by Universal parent company Comcast in 2020. This new agreement builds upon Netflix’s pre-existing Illumination output deal with Universal to now include DreamWorks Animation, another Universal-owned animation brand. Tentpoles such as “Minions: The Rise of Gru” will be among the initial 2022 offerings.

The Netflix extension comes a week after Universal announced it was moving its pay-one window for feature films from HBO to Peacock in an effort to bolster the new service. Universal’s films had been released on HBO since 2005. The studio also recently signed a licensing deal for its live-action features with Amazon’s Prime Video and IMDb TV.

The latest announcement also comes at a time of great transition in the licensing business as studios like Disney and Universal, companies that once sold the rights to air their films to streamers and rival networks, are holding them back to enhance their own Netflix challengers, like Peacock and Disney Plus. At the same time, that’s bolstered the value of those libraries that are available to license, with Sony recently signing a pay-one pact with Netflix that sources said came with a recording-setting price tag.

Keeping the Universal animated titles should help satiate Netflix subscribers with kids. Illumination’s “The Secret Life of Pets 2” which appeared to have been the most popular film on Netflix in 2021, according to analysis by Forbes. In 2020, the magazine reported that Illumination’s “Despicable Me” was the most-watched film on the service. In addition, Illumination’s “The Grinch” and “Lorax” were the second and ninth most-watched films on Netflix, respectively, in 2020.

As part of the new deal with Universal, Netflix will also license rights to the full animated and live-action slate from Universal Filmed Entertainment Group four years after release. The deal also grants the streamer rights to select titles from Universal’s movie library.

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with UFEG to bring more films from Illumination and DreamWorks Animation to our Netflix audience,” said Colin Morawski, director of studio licensing at Netflix. “As we’ve seen with our own slate, Netflix families love watching and rewatching animated films, and this deal allows us to expand our library to bring our audience more of what they want to watch.”

“Netflix has been a terrific partner and we‘re thrilled to expand our relationship,” said Peter Levinsohn, vice chairman and chief distribution officer of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group. “Universal Filmed Entertainment Group produces some of the biggest animated franchises and boldest originals from some of the most influential, impactful and inspiring creators in the industry. This exciting agreement further demonstrates the importance of that content to our distribution partners as they grow their audiences and deliver the very best in entertainment.”

Variety's Brett Lang contributed to this post.

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