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Viacom, Amazon sign kids’ deal

Episodes of “SpongeBob SquarePants” will be available on Amazon Prime.

Episodes of “SpongeBob SquarePants” will be available on Amazon Prime.

If parents of preschoolers want to plop their children in front of the laptop or tablet to watch “Blue’s Clues” and “Dora the Explorer,” they may have to join Amazon’s subscription streaming service.

On Tuesday, Viacom and Amazon announced a multiyear deal that includes granting Amazon exclusive rights to Nickelodeon’s preschool shows. The agreement — which one analyst estimated to be worth several hundred million dollars — signals that the battle for online streaming rights has increasingly moved to the youngest viewers.

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In April, Netflix said it would allow its deal with Viacom to expire. Then last month Netflix struck a deal with Walt Disney Co. to gain exclusive rights to stream Disney Jr. series like “Jake and the Never Land Pirates” and Disney XD’s “Tron: Uprising.” In 2011, Netflix introduced its “Just for Kids” menu with a selection of shows and movies aimed at children.

That put pressure on Amazon to secure children’s programming for its Amazon Prime subscription service, which it hopes will compete with Netflix and Hulu in the streaming video market.

As part of the deal announced Tuesday, Amazon also secured the rights to stream shows that are first broadcast on Viacom’s Comedy Central and MTV. But the key to the agreement is making Amazon’s Prime Instant Video subscription service the exclusive outlet for preschool-aged children to watch old episodes of shows like “Dora the Explorer,” “Go, Diego, Go!” and “The Backyardigans.”

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