My kids' favourite show is leaving Netflix – and it shows how messy the streaming TV landscape has become

The Octonauts gathered around for an announcement
(Image credit: Future)

In seven days, my life will change for the worse. That's because, in a blow to parents everywhere, Octonauts is leaving Netflix in every country where it's currently available.

All is not lost – the series is available on both Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer. But with different formats and some episodes exclusive to Netflix, it does highlight one of the biggest problems of the current streaming landscape.

Difficult choices ahead

Peso the penguin from Octonauts

(Image credit: Future)

If you're not up on your children's shows, Octonauts follows a group of eight animals living in an underwater base who go on adventures with real-life sea creatures. The Octonauts are led by a polar bear called Captain Barnacles, and also feature a cat called Kwazi, a penguin called Peso and an extremely posh octopus called Professor Inkling.

Kids love it, thanks to the blend of slapstick humour and perilous adventure, and probably because of – and not despite – the fact it's very educational. All of the sea creatures featured are real, and while kids realise a polar bear isn't going to team up with a penguin and a cat who says "Shiver me whiskers" to go deep-sea diving, they will learn that sea skaters are the only insects who live on the surface of the ocean, for example.

If you ever hear a two-year-old pretending to be a mantis shrimp, chances are they've been watching Octonauts

The critics are fans too. It's won an International Emmy, a Daytime Emmy, an Annie and two PGA Awards in the kids' show categories. As a parent, I much prefer it to any number of violent, hyperactive or brain-meltingly inane pap my kids could be watching (Mini Force Super Dino Power is banned in our house). And its vanishing act from Netflix has shone a light on the choices facing viewers in the current streaming landscape.

Where to watch?

An episode of Octonauts selected in the Netflix menu

(Image credit: Future)

Firstly, the good news. Octonauts has not gone for good. UK viewers can still watch it on CBeebies and BBC iPlayer (it was originally created for the BBC), and it's also available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. Spinoff series Octonauts: Above & Beyond will remain on Netflix, as will the three feature-length episodes (Great Barrier Reef, Ring Of Fire and The Caves Of Sac Actun). The Octonauts YouTube channel also has full episodes to view.

But that's not the full story. While the Above & Beyond spinoff was created for Netflix by the kids division of Sony Pictures Television, the BBC acquired the rights at the end of last year. That means that as of October 2023, the series has been available on iPlayer as well as Netflix. It's not due to leave Netflix until 2037. The Netflix originals Great Barrier Reef, The Caves of Sac Actun and Ring Of Fire are also available on both services at the moment, but they're due to leave Netflix in 2036.

Yes, you read that right: rights issues are so complicated now that you can't even rely on Netflix's original programming to stay on Netflix. And you need a separate calendar to keep track of all these dates.

But Octonauts highlights another issue with the current streaming landscape: same show, different experience.

Spot the difference

On Netflix, the 11-minute episodes are paired together, so you only have an intro and credits sequence every 22 minutes or so. That's not the case with iPlayer or Prime Video. The Netflix episodes also conclude with a 'creature report' – a catchy little song about the animal the Octonauts have helped during the episode, complete with footage of the real-life creature so you can see how it compares to the animated version in the show. This is missing from iPlayer and Prime Video (though they are available to watch on the CBeebies website). Remember that the Above & Beyond spinoff and feature-length specials aren't on Prime Video as well.

Add to this the differences in UIs, search features and operating functionality between the services, and it quickly becomes a confusing headache. And this is just one show.

I'm speaking from a relative position of privilege – we can afford (for now, at least) both Netflix and Prime Video, giving us more choice than a lot of people. If that changes, there's always YouTube. But I know what that algorithm's like – you're never more than 10 minutes away from a Cocomelon compilation.

The problem in microcosm

The whole debacle is a microcosm of the current streaming landscape – a confusing mess of Balkanised services that make it impossible to have access to the majority of shows without paying an exorbitant amount in subscription fees every month. Just like streaming, Octonauts is a victim of its own success – in a bid to sate the unquenchable thirst for content, Netflix bankrolled more episodes and specials, but that just created more licensing agreements with which to fracture the series even more.

Sadly, I can't see an end to this anytime soon. There's clearly money to be made from keeping whatever intellectual property you hold behind a streaming paywall, or selling it to the highest bidder. And, until that changes, I'll be stuck trying to explain complex international licensing agreements to my tantrumming two-year-old who's upset because he can't watch the creature report about a narwhal. Shiver me whiskers indeed.


These are the best streaming services for kids

And the best streaming services overall

Sky has announced a fix for my biggest beef with Sky Stream and Sky Glass

Joe Svetlik

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.