In the family way…

30 Jan,2015


Pardon our cheeky headline, but a channel like Disney doesn’t give you the liberty to do this ever. For, starting tomorrow (January 31), Disney Channel takes the family route. Kicking off its new credo will be five new live-action shows over weekends with a brand promise of ‘Shanivaar, Ravivaar only for Parivaar’. They are Kabhi Aise Geet Gaya Karo, Maan Na Maan Main Tera Mehmaan, Goldie Ahuja Matric Pass, Lage Raho Chachu and Zindagi Khattee Meethi featuring television veterans like Renuka Shahane, Mahesh Thakur, Sudhir Pandey, and Maninee Mishra. On the eve of the the change, Vijay Subramaniam, VP-Content and Communications, Media Networks, Disney India spoke with MxMIndia


From a kids-centric channel to now a family one. Given your long association with the channel, how do you and the team feel about the transition?

It feels amazing because it’s the journey we pretty much imagined for the channel and the brand in this country. We are a kids-centric family inclusive brand and our brand of entertainment will always be that. We are a young brand. When we came into the country, the first protocol was to connect with the kids which I think we’ve done consistently and successfully for a while. While doing that, we’ve also enjoyed a great deal of parental approval and participation. Now, we find we’re in a great place to complement our offering with the opportunity to entertain the entire family together. What we’re doing is adding one more offering or layer to our content offering.


The kids’ domain was also getting a little cluttered.

No, I’d say there’s always a marketplace for differentiated high quality programming. I don’t entirely believe there’s enough segmentation yet. The real journey for us is that the brand entertains kids and families together everywhere. That’s the uniqueness of the brand and there was a point in time where we too wanted to take the time to invite families to come and sit on the couch together and be entertained by the Disney channel.


While the flagship Disney Channel turns ‘family’, your other kiddie properties continue

Absolutely! I said it’s a compliment. It’s adding an existing layer to our entertainment offering. It’s stuff that kids will also enjoy. It’s made for the entire family. These are shows and stories that are not just uplifting and positive but are very entertaining.


You had a re-run of Shararat on Disney for a very long time

That’s right. Those were the early days of experimentation on what kind of stories work and how do audiences respond. More recently, we started putting shows like, The Suite Life of Karan & Kabir and Best of Luck Nikki. We even piloted a DisneyQ in the Family Mastermind format. These are progressive steps we’re looking to take to add to our existing offering and bring families into our entertainment foray.


What are your targets in terms of ‘Made for Family’ content? What’s it going to increase a year from now?

In terms of number of hours, right now there are three hours and we’ve not really set an outer goal yet. It is a significant step that we’ve taken and our entire focus is on being able to do this and set out the high quality content we’ve set out to deliver. I think our focus is really going to be on those two areas.


The family content also pits you against the existing Hindi GECs which in a different league altogether. Are you going to match that in terms of presence, scale and emotions?

Our aim is and remains to entertain kids and families together on the weekend using differentiated stories and storytelling. It is organic. We believe, over time, our popularity, through the stories and the shows, will increase and grow. We’re very clear and independent in our view of how our journey is going to be for us. We believe the opportunity is there for great stories which families gravitate towards. If you were to draw a parallel, you can look at the movie industry. There are blockbusters and there are standout films – both equally successful. I think that analogy would apply to us as well.


Surely you would’ve done a fair bit of research on this, but, in a market where kids are drawn increasingly towards detective shows like CID or funnies like Comedy Nights with Kapil, do you see enough of a pull for clean entertainment?

Absolutely. I completely agree with you in terms of what they are watching but, equally, there is an opportunity that they would be, if given, delighted to watch not just them but their parents and their grandparents. That opportunity is what we are tapping into.


From where you are right now, any targets in terms of how you would fair in terms of the ratings roster?

Unfortunately I can’t share our targets with you. We continue leading the marketplace and we will hopefully continue doing that. We want to now start tracking strongly in the family measurement scores and I know in India you don’t have co-viewing as a measure, so if you were to interpret family as the 25 plus audiences, we want to start tracking pretty strongly there as well. That would be the first measure, really.


Were there any worries that you would alienate your core viewer: children on weekends?

No, again going back to Best of Luck and The Suite Life of Karan & Kabir. Those steps gave us enough insight into how you can actually entertain kids with live action content. Because it is the stuff that they watch. If anything, we were energised by the fact that we will be able to entertain kids and families together with a new dimension which is live action which otherwise isn’t coming from the genre. Secondly, it’s the unique storytelling style that we’ve chosen that we pride ourselves in. At the heart of everything we do, we are kid-centric and family inclusive. All our stories have to pass on that filter.


Are you looking at films in the near or distant future? The Disney family in the U.S. have a fairly large film component.

That’s right. The DCOMs (Disney Channel Original Movies), you mean. They’re not on the anvil right now. Our entire focus is to deliver consistently high quality wholesome family entertainment that, with finite fiction is what we’ve started with and moved down the path of…


How has it been in terms of advertisers?

The response has been very encouraging. The fact is that it’s two-fold. Firstly, we do have a legacy with our partners. Our journey has been progressive and it’s been for them too. We have a large roster of partners that are already engaged with us, both as a network and as a Disney Channel. This has only expanded their horizons because this allows them to target other segments which currently they didn’t have an access to from a Disney standpoint. Secondly, the response to the uniqueness of our stories and the fact that it’s wholesome and fun and uplifting and really the dil ko choo jaaye part of it has been tremendous. A lot of brands have seen the qualitative values besides the quantitative ones to want to be a part of this journey.


I’m sure you’d have done your research. But, at one level, it’s good to talk about the fact that you want to be associated with the good things. But it’s another when it comes to ratings and alike.

Absolutely! I do believe that, ultimately, high quality, differentiated stories with values stand out. They will stand out and they will succeed on both parameters. That’s our belief. It is a journey, it is organic, it takes time because you’re asking people to first come and sample the stories. We’re pretty confident that through that sampling, they will be first entertained and therefore, engaged. That journey done consistently well, we will be successful.


Are you looking at any regional feeds of this family format?

Not at the moment. Again, singular focus, we’ve made a conscious choice of entertaining the Hindi speaking markets first.


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