No more kidding around

By: | Published: January 12, 2016 12:12 AM

Kids programming on TV has witnessed an increase in viewership, entry of new players, growth in local content and improved ad sentiment. But how profitable is the genre?

If you loved Tom’s chase of the naughty mouse Jerry, you are from the ’90s, the golden age of Mickey Mouse, Scooby Doo and other comedy cartoons from the West. While the popularity of these characters continue, television programming for kids has undergone a massive change as the ‘evolved’ child of today finds more resonance with localised characters like Chhota Bheem, Motu Patlu and Kisna that gives him/her a sense of ownership.

Consider how local shows like Chhota Bheem and Mighty Raju on Pogo, or Motu Patlu on Nick contribute to almost 40-50% of the total viewership for the two channels. In fact, Pogo was compelled to turn Mighty Raju from a weekly to a daily show in October 2015.

It would be fair to say that local programming is taking centre-stage for broadcasters, but one cannot undermine the popularity of international characters yet, with Doraemon, Ninja Hattori, Dora the Explorer, Oggy and the Cockroaches and Shinchan also figuring among the top 10 show list of the channels. “International content is very universal in nature and appeals to Indian sensibilities,” says Nina Elavia Jaipuria, EVP and GM, Viacom18 kids cluster. “But sure, even the international fare is often becoming localised through dubbing.”

In fact, if one were to look at the genre today, there would be 30 odd local shows but hardly four or five of them feature at the top. So what is driving the genre? And how challenging is it for broadcasters to reach out today to the varied needs of the new age digital kid?

‘Glocal’ is the buzzword

Aiming to maintain a healthy balance of global and local content, Turner International India, for example, has grown its local franchises and alongside brought in the classic Tom and Jerry on Pogo after almost a decade. It is also bringing the classic ’90s cartoons in a new avatar. Looney Tunes recently launched as Wabbit and the new avatars of Scooby Doo and The Powerpuff Girls are now on the anvil.

Executive director and network head, kids of Turner International India, Krishna Desai, says, “The reason we are working closer with US studios is because animation is one format which can really transcend boundaries. One can’t do that with live action.”

The future is to create many local characters that resonate with audiences, says Nikhil Gandhi, VP and head revenues, Media Networks for Disney India. “We created Arjun and have V for Virat on Hungama and will launch five to six local shows between Disney and Hungama soon.”

Strengthening its India content pipeline, Discovery Kids also launched the animated Kisna last year and more recently, Luv Kushh. What helps maintain the balance between global and local is the distributed viewership. Primetime is different in the kids genre, with viewership coming in the morning from 7am–12 noon, 12 noon–4pm and then from 4pm–8pm as well.

An extension of local characters, in the form of movies, has further helped create a more loyal viewership. Movies take the character out of their regular environment and thus create engagement on weekends. Movies also give 20% increase in viewership, if not more.

But the real game-changers here have been BARC and digitisation. With BARC also measuring rural markets, channels have realised rural audiences are not too different from their urban counterparts, for this genre. For both markets, if a child is watching 100 minutes of TV daily, almost 80 minutes are spent watching all other genres except kids.

Meanwhile, digitisation has enabled networks to micro-segment bringing in a level playing field where all the channels are equally available to kids in digitised areas. Thus now each of the three to four channels of networks like Disney, Turner and Viacom18 targets a different age demographic. So while a Nick Jr and Disney Junior cater to pre-schoolers, Pogo caters to four to seven-year-olds; Nick, Disney and Cartoon Network to children over the age of six. Gender too plays an important part in the channel’s target segment with Sonic, Toonami and Hungama clearly targeting boys.

Desai explains that as fragmentation increases, one has to make sure they are segmenting audiences right because audience preferences are moving towards a more specialised type of content.

This has also paved the way for new entrants like edutainment channel Da Vinci Learning, an HD version with Nick HD+ and the superhero channel Toonami.

According to Mohit Anand, MD, Da Vinci Media India, the genre is plagued with similar content, therefore the need for a learning oriented channel for children between the age of six and 12.

But there are planners like Harsha Joshi, EVP, group trading, Dentsu Aegis Network, who feel that characters continue to drive viewership. So even though the number of channels is increasing, it will not increase viewership and will thus eat into the pie. “Barring the top four channels, others don’t have great numbers so they don’t fit into most media plans,” Joshi says. “There is a secondary audience in the form of mothers but costs have gone up so CPRP-wise it is not sensible. Plus, activations further eat into the budget.”

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Pester power increases

India has over 370 million children under the age of 14 — one of the most valued target segments for advertisers today. However, the challenge is in terms of advertising monies. The kids genre is the third largest in viewership with a share of 8% on a 4+ basis, but is still under-indexed in the ad pie with around 2%.

But with pester power increasing, more advertisers are slowly coming on board and thus improving the ad sentiment. Turner International India VP, head of ad sales South Asia, Juhi Ravindranath, notes, “There are 300 clients in the genre now and the number of brands coming in is very encouraging. But advertisers are not yet unlocking the true value of the genre and it will take a while for more brands to come into the fold and our position to command a fair share of rate will increase.”

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Most broadcasters now have a ratio of around 55:45 when it comes to non-traditional and traditional advertisers. Madison Media COO Shekhar Banerjee believes that while non-traditional advertisers do come on board, a handful of them leverage pester power. Since the reach of the kids genre in their core kids TG saturates early as children sleep by 7–8 pm in most places, advertisers tend to use other genres for incremental reach. “It is imperative for them to address this leakage from their traditional set of clients by focusing on building the reach of the genre,” he says.

Among the new categories into the fold are auto, e-commerce and consumer durables. Approximately 10-12% of budgets by planners are now being allocated to the kids’ genre.

Marketing muscle

Broadcasters have been working on innovative brand engagement initiatives to reach out to the consumer. While Pogo had Bheem interact with Coco from Kellogg’s for four episodes, Cartoon Network and Perfetti’s Alpenliebe Juzt Jelly will join hands for the upcoming telefilm, Kris Ka Scooba Dooba Ajooba. Nick with its popular characters has ventured into commercials including a Colgate ad called ‘Magical Castle’ where Motu Patlu are talking about Colgate, and the channel also created an alarm for 5 pm saying it’s “milk time” with Boost.

Disney has Jet Set Go where it takes kids to Disneyland along with Kahaani Masters — an initiative where kids create their own characters and stories are woven around them. Discovery India partnered with WWF-India to organise a Wild Wisdom Quiz and also tied up recently with Rapid Metro to launch the Discovery Kids Joy Express, a joy ride for children in Delhi-NCR where they got to meet Kisna.

Way forward

The Rs 350-400 crore genre has got a trajectory of around 10-15% in terms of CAGR growth over the years. On a monetisation perspective, ROIs are looking better for broadcasters.

The focus for Viacom18 in 2016 is to enable its second kids channel, Sonic, to capture more market share. As part of this, Oggy and the Cockroaches, Pakdam Pakdai and Power Rangers will be among the top shows helping take Sonic to a new level.

Addressing the fact that usage of technology for videos or playing games and ownership of tablets or handheld devices among kids is on the rise, Turner will lay focus on its websites, and also launch its applications ‘Watch and Play’ and ‘CN Anything’ in India by early 2016. Meanwhile, new entrant Da Vinci Media will shortly announce the launch of an OTT platform for India with some exclusive content.

But another challenge the genre will have to address is the increasing awareness amongst traditional kids’ channels advertisers on responsible marketing to kids. Many advertisers have reduced or stopped marketing directly to kids unless there is parental supervision. This will steadily impact ad revenues. With programming being the key differentiator, Rapunzel’s advice is the final word: “Venture outside your comfort zone; the rewards are worth it.”

Chandni.Mathur@expressindia.com

@chandni_mathur

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