Vijay Subramaniam, executive director, Disney Kids Network, says, The market is ripe for us to look at a separate channel for pre-school, early stage children after our Disney Junior block has been so successful, riding on shows like Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh. As the childrens genre matures further and with the advent of digitisation, Subramaniam says the childrens TV space will become more segmented. For us, as we consolidate our existing channels, there is a massive opportunity in the pre-school segment, he adds.
According to Monica Tata, GM, Entertainment Networks, South Asia, Turner International India, the childrens genre is a good opportunity to be around and thats why quite a few new players are entering the market. Growth can come in two ways, by expanding existing channels and through new channels entering the space, she says. We are absolutely focussed on bringing new content on Cartoon Network and Pogo and consolidating existing ones. So, for instance, since Chhota Bheem is such a success on Pogo we are looking at Chhota Bheem spinoffs. We launched a show called Mighty Raju, who is a character in Chhota Bheem, adds Tata.
Nina Elavia Jaipuria, EVP and business head, Nickelodeon and Sonic, says childrens channels continue to grow 8-10% year-on-year. We are not a niche space anymore. We have a fairly large share of the overall TV pie, about 8-9% of viewership, and we are bigger than music and sports. Its a good sign that despite the fragmentation and entry of many new channels, childrens channels have maintained a 500-600+ GRPs (gross rating points) a week, she adds. The combined GRPs of the childrens channels are small, of course, compared to the Hindi GECs. For the week that just ended, Star Plus alone had GRPs of 250, but both Jaipura and Tata point out that childrens channels have scope for growth.
But the top players will now have to face competition from Discovery Kids, which launched this August. According to Rahul Johri, senior VP & GM, South Asia Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, This year was the opportune time to launch Discovery Kids. The childrens category is growing and the Discovery bouquet of channels already stimulate learning and Discovery Kids provides a safe environment that parents can trust, he says.
So, will Discovery Kids be a game changer in the Indian childrens genre as Johri expects According to analysts, the entry of new channels also helps the existing players to consolidate content and be more aggressive in marketing and promoting their channels.
We are looking to increase throughput in the coming 12-24 months. We will have more seasons of Best of Luck Nikki and Suite Life of Karan and Kabir. On Disney XD, our channel dedicated to superheroes, the whole Marvel series of entertainment has opened up. Spiderman is already on air, says Subramaniam.
We are strengthening the content line-up, says Tata, and we will have more films on the Chhota Bheem and Mighty Raju characters. In fact, they are already in the works.
Johri points out that childrens genre is a mature genre. Over 370 million children under the age of 14 are discerning and demand variety, new concepts and characters. Discovery Kids offers programming that appeals to different age groups from pre-school, tweens to teens, he says.
Discovery Kids is trying to ensure quick distribution availability across the country, both in analogue and digital platforms. Johri says that on the basis of research, Discovery Kids has divided programming into multiple genres and one of them is India themed, others include adventure, mythology, nature, history and science.
Series like Bindi the Jungle Girl and Finding Stuff Out allow children explore their world. Indian-themed programming like Sally Bollywood is getting very high traction, says Johri, though its early days. The focus is on all three areasnation-wide distribution, content appeal and varied mix of high quality content, he says. Nick is all set to launch Motu Patlu, a show about two fabulously comic characters and their adventures.
Successful shows see extensions on digital platforms, gaming, activities in schools, malls, merchandise and so forth. For instance, Tata says its Chhota Bheem Steals the Laddoos game got 1.5 million hits on mobile devices. A big focus for us is the school contact programme. With our Oggy and the Cockroaches show we went to 500 schools with a contest for children. This is a great way for them to engage with the characters, Tata says.
Another way to grow the genre is by dubbing the shows in Hindi and other regional languages. Disneys Doraemon, Nicks Shaun the Sheep are all dubbed in Hindi and other regional languages, expanding their reach. Jaipuria says, We engage with children on different platforms, mobile, Internet, Facebook, Twitter. We also do a host of on-air, on-ground activities. For example, Dora the Explorer, went on an eight-city tour with back-to-school products; we held Power Rangers contests at malls and on our website. Johri says the network will continue to work towards increasing the brand awareness of Discovery Kids in the country through multiple marketing initiatives.
Hurdle to growth
Most of the existing childrens channels have seen 7-10% growth year-on-year and expect to maintain that trend, but according to Tata, the biggest challenge is that India is predominantly a single TV home country. A majority of the children are watching general entertainment channels because they have a single TV in their homes and dont have a choice, says Tata. We see the Hindi GECs as our biggest competition, because 85% of the 4-14 audience are watching GECs. Hopefully, as India grows, the propensity to spend will also grow and we can graduate to two-TV homes, she adds.
Though the childrens genre is the third largest in the viewership pie7-10% compared to Hindi GECs 40%it is an underpriced category where advertising is concerned. The big challenge for the childrens networks is that we are not paid according to viewership. It will be a long battle to change this mindset, admits Tata. The largest pie of the advertising revenue goes to the Hindi GECs, of course, followed by Hindi movies. But the biggest change all the channels have seen is the growing interest of non-traditional childrens categories in the childrens genre. Last year, 40% of Turners advertising revenues came from finance, auto, banks, FMCGs as opposed to chocolates, biscuits, health drinks and foods. At the moment there are about 125 advertisers in the childrens channels and over 400 brands and growing, says Jaipuria. As Subramaniam puts it: As children play bigger roles in decision making at homes, we will see more advertisers flocking to the genre.