The Anchor: Monica Tata on 6 reasons why running a kids’ channel is no child’s play

04 Apr,2012

By Monica Tata

 

The kids’ genre is the largest genre in terms of viewership after mass genres like GEC contributing to 18.3 per cent of the viewership pie (Source: TAM Media Research | TG: CS 4-14 | Market: All India | Period: 2010 – Wk 3 of 2012).

 

Although it caters to kids, being a successful player in this genre is no child’s play. It is a competitive market where players need to have the ability to constantly create content that is engaging and innovative. They need to be adept at technological evolution and have the foresight to adapt content over multiple and mobile platforms.

 

#1 Single TV Households

One of the biggest concerns of special interest channels like kids’ channels is the phenomenon known as ‘The tyranny of the single TV households’. In India, a majority of households have only 1 TV set which are controlled by parents during prime time hours. This is why GECs dominate the television viewership pie. Today, over 85% of kids also tune in to GEC channels. Thus the task becomes even more challenging to sustain and increase the viewership of kids’ channels. Kids’ channels’ need to constantly reinvent their content and packaging so that there are novelty factors to the channel that excite kids and at the same time, maintain familiarity so that kids don’t lose connect with the channel.

 

#2 Target audiences

It is the only genre which is fortunate to receive a new set of target audience every five years. Kids between the ages of 4-14 years being the core target audience, content and programming needs to be aligned with their entertainment requirements, perceptions, behavior, social and cultural ideologies, geo-demographics, etc. Kids also change their mind very easily basis what they or their friends think is ‘cool’ or not. Thus, it becomes imperative to stay ahead of times and ensure that content created for the target audience has the potential to be molded and refreshed from time to time.

 

One such shift noticed in 2011 with regard to the viewership habits of kids is that they prefer to watch fewer shows on kids’ channels than before and have begun to spend more time per show. Thus, although the viewership for the number of shows has reduced, the overall category viewership remains mostly unchanged.

 

Gatekeepers are another important factor to consider while trying to reach the core TG. *48% of parents always exercise control over what their kids watch. This means that if the parents are not happy with the content that is being aired on your channel, chances are that the kids won’t be allowed to watch it. Content on the channel should be considered safe by the parents for their kids. Another way to expand the viewership pie is by creating content that can be viewed by adults as well.

 

#3 Content

With consumers having a much wider choice of channels, ownership of quality content is increasingly being seen as a key differentiator for broadcasters. Once, Cartoon Network was the only kids’ channel airing international content, fast forward to today, and there is a plethora of kids’ channels airing classic international content (like Tom and Jerry), anime cartoons (like Hagemaru), local live action shows (like M.A.D) and the latest craze – Indian animated content (like Roll No. 21 and Chhota Bheem).

 

Another way to garner success for content is to make it fun and engaging for gatekeepers as well as 66% of parents watch TV together with their kids. For instance, POGO has continued to hold the title as ‘The No. 1 Kids and Family Channel’ thanks to shows like Chhota Bheem and Mr. Bean that are among the top three rated kids shows by kids and adults. *(Cartoon Network New Generations 2011) Engaging and innovative content with storytelling and strong characters at the core is the focus for broadcasters of kids’ entertainment.

 

#4 Animation

Creating animated content is a time consuming and expensive process. Although we have taken it up as our prerogative to boost this industry via our ‘Desi Toons’ strategy, there are several challenges. Firstly, in order to truly make animation travel across borders, the storyline and characters need to have global appeal and resonate with kids irrespective of cultural and geographical borders. In this scenario, it becomes difficult to make mythology content travel which is what a majority of studios pitch to us. We have had some success in terms of shows like Kumbh Karan and movies like Arjun: Adventures of the Ice Lotus which have managed to do well in other regions of Asia Pacific because their plot is more contemporary.

 

Another challenge is the outsourcing business models that animation studios have in place. This model makes it reasonable for large film production houses to outsource animation to India but for broadcasters it becomes quite expensive. Animation studios and broadcasters need to arrive at a happy settlement wherein there is a cost effective quality model.

 

#5 Role of language/dubbing

India is a vastly multicultural and multilingual region. This factor, initially, proved to be a challenge to expansion of viewership markets as content available on kids’ channels consisted of international shows available in English. Broadcasters began to realize the potential of dubbing content in local languages so that the channel could be consumed by the masses across India. Thus subsequently, kids’ channels were made available in Hindi, then Tamil and Telugu and now even in Marathi and Bengali.

 

Content providers are taking this a step further by now transcreating scripts of international shows in local languages and not merely translating them. Shows based on humor are that much more hilarious if they capture the colloquialism and nuances of the language.

 

#6 Beyond Television

In today’s multi-screen playground, it’s not uncommon for kids to consume content on more than one platform. This represents huge opportunities for broadcasters to expand the presence of a brand or a character in the mobile and online space through smart phones, tablets and computers. Moreover, broadcasters and content houses are increasingly working towards building anytime anywhere access to content.

 

The contribution of content to the digital success cannot be undermined here as well. It is important to leverage popular content on television to these online and mobile platforms in appropriate formats that are engaging, innovative and unique. For instance, Chhota Bheem’s popularity on-air has definitely contributed largely to the success of www.pogo.tv. ‘Chhota Bheem Balloon Blaster’ is one of the most popular games on pogo.tv which allows fans to connect with their hero through a game. The site has seen immense success with about 500,000 unique viewers per month. Apart from prime television when it comes to appeasing kids, merchandising is one of the most powerful tools to connect with them.

 

Merchandising, today, has transformed into a global arena; providing an array of international and local brands to choose from. We are witnessing a healthy rise of various kinds of merchandising in every product category. Kids want to have their favourite characters with them (in the form of stationary, bags, lunch box, bottles, clothes, toys, etc.) wherever they go; be it school or outside or at home!

 

For instance, Cartoon Network Enterprises (CNE), the licensing and merchandising division for Cartoon Network and Pogo, has reflected the growth of the industry by reaping profits and growing by almost 70 per cent in 2011 and has added 680 SKUs. CNE Products are now available in over 5300 retail counters across India. With the advent of 3G and the digitization deadline in sight, the prospects of growth in terms of market penetration and revenue accountability from subscription models in nothing but encouraging to invest the kids’ genre.

 

In spite of these challenges, the performance of the kids’ genre in 2011 is an indication of the potential and growth of this market with the right mix. The genre not only recorded growth but also saw the entrance of new channels like Sonic and growth in regional languages as well with Marathi and Bengali feeds. In Tamil, for example, the share of Kids is higher than News. Many automobile, telecom, financial services and grocery products now target kids as well, which means this genre will continue to be attractive to advertisers in years to come. From that perspective, there is no looking back for the kids genre with infinite growth possibilities provided ‘Content remains King’.

 

Monica Tata is General Manager, Entertainment Networks, South Asia, Turner International India Pvt Ltd.

 

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