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Paramount+'s Latest Purge Signals a Troubling Future for Kids' Shows

The streaming service removed 10 Nickelodeon originals, including Big Nate and the Rugrats reboot, as part of its new big-tent audience strategy.
  • Rugrats (Image: Paramount)
    Rugrats (Image: Paramount)

    Warner Bros. Discovery may have kickstarted the trend when it traded Batgirl for a tax-write off and began quietly removing Max Originals, but content purges aren’t just a David Zaslav thing anymore. Paramount+ recently removed 10 Nickelodeon original series, including Blue’s Clues & You, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, It’s Pony, Middlemost Post, Ollie’s Pack, Ryan’s Mystery Playdate, Santiago of the Seas, That Girl Lay Lay, Big Nate, and the 2021 Rugrats reboot.

    This isn’t the first time Paramount+ has axed original content. In 2023, it removed shows like Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, Star Trek: Prodigy, Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone reboot, and The Real World: Homecoming, essentially dumping them into a digital black hole. Disney has also pulled dozens of titles from Disney+ and Hulu, including Willow, Dollface, and Marvel’s Hero Project. Such purges have become increasingly more common as streaming services prioritize cost-cutting. The controversial strategy has sparked backlash from both the executive producers behind these projects — Rise of the Pink Ladies creator Annabel Oakes called it a “particularly brutal move” — and viewers who can no longer access their favorite titles.

    Paramount+’s latest bloodbath is particularly notable because it targets children’s original programming, which has long been a staple for the streamer. Per the company’s 10-K filing, the decision is part of a broader “strategic decision to focus on content with mass global appeal.” This marks a significant change, especially considering Brian Robbins, President and CEO of Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon, previously touted kids’ shows as an “amazing, amazing retention tool,” which have consistently ranked among the streamer’s most-watched shows. The news also comes just a month after parent company Paramount Global shut down preschool streaming service Noggin.

    Of course, Paramount+ has never been a streaming service for just kids. Some of its most successful originals fall outside the genre, including Star Trek: Discovery, Halo, Mayor of Kingstown, and Yellowstone prequels 1883 and 1923. But programming that appeals to younger viewers has always been a core component of its brand. Two of the recently removed shows, Big Nate and Rugrats (2021), were even created specifically for Paramount+. While Paw Patrol isn’t going anywhere (at least, for now), it’s clear that kids’ shows aren’t immune from the harsh consequences of wider industry changes.

    Paramount+ shifting its focus towards “content with mass global appeal” feels a bit reminiscent of The CW (which was under the Paramount Global banner before being acquired by Nexstar) attempting to reinvent itself as a big-tent network. It’s difficult not to associate Paramount+ with Nickelodeon cartoons, just like it’s still impossible to hear “The CW” without immediately thinking about teen dramas and superheroes. Networks and streamers wanting to appeal to as wide of an audience as possible makes sense in theory, but that strategy comes at the expense of the very demographics that led the brands to success in the first place.

    It increasingly feels like programming geared at younger viewers is the first on the chopping block these days. Even former kids’ haven Cartoon Network, which falls under Warner Bros. Discovery, is now focused on older audiences as Max scales back on children’s programming. “The path forward is to lean into that and make really great stuff that appeals to young adults and kids can watch it too,” Cartoon Network and Adult Swim President Michael Ouweleen explained to Variety. While it’s great that animated gems like Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake exist for young adults, today’s kids are also missing out on their own version of the original Adventure Time.

    Even with these purges, kids’ shows aren’t just going away. Paramount+ still has originals like Transformers: EarthSpark, Kamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years, and the upcoming Dora reboot, while Max owns Sesame Street. Disney+ is an obvious choice for parents, offering not only an enormous library of classics, but also recent hits like Star Wars: Young Jedi Adventures, The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, and Monsters at Work. Apple TV+ makes a surprisingly strong case for being a top kids’ and family programming source, boasting originals like Harriet the Spy, Frog and Toad, and The Snoopy Show, to name just a few. There’s also Amazon Kids+ and the PBS Kids Video app. However, it’s abundantly clear that we’ve come a long way from the days of simply turning on the Disney Channel after school.

    As the industry continues to shift and change for better or worse, it will certainly be interesting to see which streaming platforms continue to invest in children’s programming and which ones scale back in favor of chasing big-tent audiences.

    Kelly Martinez is a TV Reporter based in Los Angeles. Her previous work can be found at BuzzFeed and People Magazine, among other outlets. She enjoys reading, spending time with her cat, and explaining the plot of Riverdale to people.

    TOPICS: Paramount+, Max, Big Nate, Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, Rugrats, Kids' Programming