A day after Nancy Kanter’s last day at Disney, Netflix announced an overall deal with the former EVP, Content and Creative Strategy for Disney Channels Worldwide, who launched and built Disney’s preschool TV channel Disney Junior.
Under the pact, Kanter will develop and produce animated and live-action projects — both feature films and series — targeted at kids and families through her company Available Light Productions.
For Netflix, brining on board Kanter, one of the most respected executives in the kids and family space, is part of a big push in family entertainment as the streamer is taking on the leading SVOD player in the space, Disney+.
“We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation — maybe eventually passing them, we’ll see, a long way to go just to catch them — and maintaining our lead in general entertainment that’s so stimulating,” Netflix’s founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings said on the company’s earnings call two weeks ago.
Kanter comes to Netflix after 20 years at Disney where she developed and grew such popular franchises, including the Peabody Award-winning Doc McStuffins, the Emmy-winning Sofia the First, the Emmy-nominated Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and The Owl House, and other hit series such as Elena of Avalor and Vampirina for Disney Junior. She also shepherded High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Monsters at Work (for Disney +), Secret Society of Second Born Royals and the upcoming movies Spin and Sneakerella, all for Disney+.
“We want Netflix to be the home of the world’s best storytellers and creative visionaries, and few embody that more than Nancy Kanter,” said Melissa Cobb, VP of Original Animation, Netflix: She’s already made a lasting impact on a generation of kids — creating opportunities to see their lives on screen and inspiring them to feel connected to something bigger than themselves. We can’t wait for her to bring new stories to life at Netflix, and continue to entertain and inspire audiences around the world.”
Kanter announced her departure from Disney Channels Worldwide last April when she and the division’s President and Chief Creative Officer Gary Marsh agreed on a long transition to allow Marsh time to put together a comprehensive plan for the future at Disney Channels. At the time, Kanter hinted that, after two decades at Disney, she felt she was ready for something new.
“Throughout my career I’ve challenged myself to think differently, imagine bigger and aim higher,” Kanter said today as part of the Netflix deal announcememt. “I am delighted at this opportunity to partner with the innovative creators and executive team at Netflix who value those same aspirations, and I look forward to working with them to create new stories that will inspire the minds and touch the hearts of kids and families everywhere.”
Kanter joined Disney in 2001 as VP Original Programming, Playhouse Disney. She was promoted to SVP in 2004 and expanded role to SVP, Playhouse Disney Worldwide in 2008. In 2012, Kanter was named EVP, Original Programming and General Manager, Disney Junior Worldwide. In 2017, her role expanded to all content for kids age 2-14 and she was promoted to EVP, Content and Creative Strategy, Disney Channels Worldwide
As EVP, Content and Creative Strategy, Disney Channels Worldwide, Kanter’s responsibilities included spearheading the content strategy for original live-action and animated programming for an audience of kids ages 2-14. During her tenure, she launched the #1 movie on cable for 2019, Descendants 3, along with High School Musical: The Musical: The Series for Disney+. She also led the development for Disney+ of Monsters at Work — a sequel to Pixar’s Monsters Inc and the feature length Phineas & Ferb Movie: Candace Against the Universe for Disney+.
In her role as EVP Original Programming and General Manager, Disney Junior Worldwide, Kanter developed popular programming for Disney Channel, including Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and The Owl House, Elena of Avalor and Vampirina for Disney Junior, along with High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Monsters at Work (for Disney +), Secret Society of Second Born Royals and the upcoming movies Spin and Sneakerella, all for Disney+. Under her leadership, Disney Junior became the #1 preschooler-dedicated TV network for 8 years in a row (2013-20). In 2011 and 2012, she led the successful rebrand of Playhouse Disney to Disney Junior, establishing the brand as a global powerhouse, with a total of 36 Disney Junior channels in 27 languages around the world.
Kanter also spearheaded the expansion of Disney Channel and Disney Junior content into more experiential and pro-social areas, focused on connecting content with resources and information with real-world impact in the areas of ethnic/cultural identity, LGBTQ acceptance, epilepsy research, anxiety, gun safety and children’s health. In 2017, Kanter organized the first ever Disney Channels Worldwide Diversity and Inclusion Summit. She also broke new ground in children’s health by partnering with UNICEF on a program to bring much needed medical information to impoverished families with young children in remote areas of Latin America with the character of Doc McStuffins. In 2020 she initiated a collaboration with the World Health Organization to have Doc McStuffins bring accurate and reliable safety messages to children around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to joining Disney Channel, Kanter was president, Bluecow.com, an internet site for children’s entertainment and early learning. She was previously an executive producer for Sesame Workshop, where she supervised the development and production of more than 30 Sesame Street specials and direct-to-video projects, including the Emmy Award-winning Elmo Saves Christmas.
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