Kids channels' mantra: "Go local"

MUMBAI: If there is one genre on Indian television today that is growing at a rapid speed, it is the kids channel space.

Sample some facts:

    *There are 310 million kids in India out of which, 130 million are TV viewing kids.

    *The Indian kids market is equivalent to the Western European kids market

    *The Indian kids' discretionary spending power is $5 billion

In such a dynamic scenario, more and more kids channels are entering the hitherto untapped arena.

The Frames session on Kido-Logy saw Hungama TV programming head Zarina Mehta, Walt Disney Asia managing director (Branded TV) Nicky Parkinson, Lowe vice president Sanjai Srivastava, Turner Entertainment Network Asia senior vice president and general manager Ian Diamond and Millward Brown Services, IMRB International vice president and head (South Asia) Prasun Basu urging Urging the industry to 'go local' via programming if they wanted to make their presence felt in the country.

In 1981, there was just one kids' show on Doordarshan, Magic Lamp, which was India's first kids show. Between 1981 and 1985, came shows like Contact, which was the mathemagic show on DD. Then came the golden era of the Ramayana and Mahabharat from 1985 - 1990, which, in the strictest sense, cannot be dubbed kids programming.

After that, television was bombarded with kids' special shows like Snakes & Ladders (Zee TV), Shaktimaan (DD) and Hip Hip Hurray (Zee TV).

The present day scenario is not only there are various kids-focused shows like ShakaLaka Boom Boom, Son Pari and Sharaarat, to name a few, there are even evening kids' bands on general entertainment channels like Star Plus, Sony and Zee.

Year 1995 could be termed as a new beginning. The first

international kids channel, Cartoon Network, launched in India. In 1999, Nickelodeon launched and, in 2000, Cartoon Network went the Hindi way. Nickelodeon followed suit in 2003 when it relaunched as Nick in Hindi. Then the Indian television space saw a slew of kids channels launching --- Animax, POGO and finally Hungama TV. Last year, the Walt Disney International set eyes on India and launched two channels here with Hindi content.

Said Parkinson, "The Indian and the UK kids market is very similar to Each other. The way forward in this scenario is by going local. One must think local and act local."

In the first two months after the launch of the Disney channels in India, the company produced 200 hours of original programming, which has been one of the single largest programming efforts undertaken by any broadcaster.

The Disney channels are available in 10 different languages across the Globe. In India, the channel has about 2,000 hours of Hindi and Tamil programming. Disney also plans to have locally adapted versions of its popular interactive shows like That's so Raven in India. "Our approach lies in our company's promise to deliver belief in our content," Parkinson said. Concurring with Parkinson, Turner's Diamond too had the same advice of going local. "The underlying principle of a successful channel is in knowing your audience. We believe in investing in research of the evolving media habits of the kids in India. With the help of our research, we felt the need to launch Pogo And that was how Pogo was born in India," said he.

While the kids' space is still at a nascent stage in India, it is growing at a very rapid pace. "Knowing your content and providing quality premium content is a key factor. It is essential to invest heavily in content and localization is the key to ensure that your product is recognised by your audience," Diamond added.

Cartoon Network and Pogo have taken several local initiatives in India. These include 100 per cent Desi Toons, Pogo Amazing Kids Choice Awards, Toon Tamasha in Hindi, English and Tamil, Prime Pogo slot, Toon Cricket, customised shows on special occasions like Diwali, Holi, Raksha Bandhan and Pongal, Teacher's Day and Mother's Day specials.

"Make sure that your audience gets a complete brand experience through different events, contests and media. One should encourage different types of thought processes. That really will be the way forward," stressed Diamond.

One of Cartoon Network's special initiatives was to urge kids to

develop their own cartoon character, which the network would animate and develop. The first such cartoon character was - Leo - The Magic Pencil. "We will open our network and give a voice to the kids. They should have an ownership towards the channel," he added.

Pointing out that Turner has been in the market for 10 years, Diamond said the lesson that has been learnt states innovate, invest and evolve in the market.

Predicting some future trends in the kids channel space, Hungama TV's Mehta said that the exponential growth in revenues will come from advertising and subscription money. "There will be a push from marketing, content and technology and I believe, there will be 20 dedicated kids' channels, which will cater to individual age groups, girls and boys," Mehta said.

Also, according to her, there is a possibility of regional language channels for kids coming up. Interactive gaming channels and kids specific radio stations will also be something to watch out for.

Basu, on the other hand, threw light on how kids and brands were inseparable. Throwing up some staggering figures on the importance of kids between 8 - 14 year old, Basu said they control $1.88 trillion a year globally.

"The tweens love brands, they are different and they are the first truly interactive generation, which is driven by pester power," he said.

Delving into the reasons as to why this lot was important, Basu said, "These 8-14 year olds are departing from the playground and they are subjected to almost 20,000 ads a year. Apart from this, they are also more affluent and are growing in number."

Sample these figures of the percentage of kids in some countries who are driven by peer pressure:

   * Germany - 71 per cent

   *China - 81 per cent

   * India - 81 per cent

   * Brazil - 89 per cent

"India is a very dynamic market and kids here have a very high

competitive spirit. 92 per cent of kids enjoy creating things, 80 per cent can't wait to grow up and almost 90 per cent want to be famous," said Basu.

Lowe's Srivastava questioned the need to use kids in advertisements of products that they have very little or nothing to do with. "The center of our universe is changing as consumers and parents. We have let the kids get the better of us and

the balance of power has clearly shifted. The marketers' new mantra and weapon is that if you can't convince them, manipulate them," he said.

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