'No child's play' for Disney in India

MUMBAI: Kid's television behemoth Disney is approaching its second anniversary in India on 17 December and with this, the channel is signing off 2006 with a lot of aggression. In the last two years Disney Channel and Toon Disney have contributed to competition in the kid's television landscape in India, thus provoking the pioneers Cartoon Network and its sibling Pogo to spruce up their offerings.

In this respect, the most strategic move made by Disney this year was its acquisition of kids GEC channel Hungama TV. UTV recently bid farewell to what it calls its 'little baby' and in that same breadth Disney opened its doors to the channel and took control. This consolidation will mark the beginning of a new era for Disney, but will inevitably kindle fierce competition in this space.

Walt Disney Television International (India) executive director production and programming Nachiket Pantvaidya affirms that this landmark will only lay the foundation and provide a spring board for the company's future plans in India. However, he declined to divulge on the positioning and integration of the new addition into the Disney portfolio.

While Disney was bold enough to select India as the first market in the TV business outside the US to introduce original local production with Vicky Aur Vetaal, the next home grown entity is likely to be announced next month.

Pantvaidya expects that the next year will convert kid's viewership habits from a ratio of 23:77 kids' channels versus GEC/sports to a 60:40 ratio of the same. He added that Disney currently cornered the bulk of market share as individually Disney Channel held 18.9 per cent, Southern star Toon Disney 8 per cent and new comer Hungama TV 22 - 23 per cent (Market:HSM, Period:average for November 2006).

As reported earlier, the two Turner players plan to enter the local movie production space as well as put in place a theme park experience next year with Planet Pogo and Cartoon Network Townsville. At the same time rumours are rife in the industry of a new player from the BBC plethora, while Nick is also showing potential of bringing some action to the fore. Commenting on the capability for growth of the category Pantvaidya says that the revenue monetization of the market should be in proportion to its viewership. "Currently, it is highly under monetized from an ad sales point of view. The question is, will the ad pie expand?"

Additionally, Pantvaidya outlines an emerging trend among kids television viewing which is inviting a large number of older girls (10 - 14 year old) as opposed to a previously a male dominated scenario that was attracted to action and cartoon based themes.

In eyeing the 'tween' category, he sees the biggest challenge in 2007, as being "to create programming that will resonate culturally with older kids (10-14)."

Presently, the channel has lined up a slew of festive programming with the TV premiere of The Incredibles on Christmas Eve on Disney Channel at 11 am (with a repeat at 7 pm). While on 25 December, Micky's Once upon a Christmas will air at 12 noon and a special episode of Mickey Mouse Club House: Mickey Saves Santa in the preschool segment on Disney Channel.

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