Avatar: the Last Airbender ran for three seasons on Nickelodeon. While it had an enthusiastic audience, it didn’t have a large enough one for the network. Then, the series found a home on Netflix for streaming, where it really took off. The president and CEO of Nickelodeon, Brian Robbins, recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about how well this strategy worked for Avatar and how they plan to grow a full-fledged Avatar franchise. Part of that move? Is going to be removing The Last Airbender from Netflix for streaming, the very place where it grew its audience online.
Now, Brian Robbins is taking over kids and family programming for Paramount+. A lot of Nickelodeon shows are moving over to Paramount+ as part of this, including Avatar: the Last Airbender, which will exclusively be on the new streaming service. Previously, they launched Avatar: The Legend of Korra on Paramount+, where Brian Robbins said the new series “crushed” it. For them, this helped serve as proof that while Avatar grew into the phenomenon it is today on Netflix, that it can also thrive on the Paramount+ streaming service. As they are moving the original series to its new streaming home, they are also working on more Avatar projects.
The team at Nickelodeon brought in the creators of Avatar and created Avatar Studios, a company responsible for taking the original series and its material and growing that out into a full-fledged franchise, full of more spinoffs within the universe.
Avatar: the Last Airbender is a great example of how the internet can bring any franchise back around. This series first aired in 2005 to 2008 on the regular Nickelodeon television network. It was considered to a success with critics and in the ratings, but not successful enough to justify turning it into its own franchise. Then, it joined Netflix, where it found new audiences online. It’s been on and off the streaming service for a while, but this time, it may be leaving Netflix for good as it becomes exclusive to Paramount+. From what Brian Robbins shared, it sounds like the future of Avatar is happening on Paramount+. He told The Hollywood Reporter that, “Driving new subscribers to Paramount+ is a huge priority for Nickelodeon and the company right now.”
Avatar: the Last Airbender tells the story of 12-year-old Aang, who lives in a world where some people can manipulate the four elements. Aang is the last of his people. He can bend the air. He, along with his friends, join up to stop the Fire Nation, who have been warring with the other nations of the world. The world-building was rich and ready to be turned into a franchise.
While the series leaving Netflix is disappointing for subscribers, it’s a win for Paramount+. After the CBS streamer renamed and rebranded itself, it was still mostly known as a place to watch new Star Trek programs. Since that time, they’ve been building up their offerings. With Avatar they’re adding more to their family programming section. As they continue to grow beyond just CBS programming, it’ll be interesting to see how they compete with streamers like Netflix.