Television

‘We have been growing at 9-10 per cent every year’ : Viacom18 EVP and GM Sonic and Nickelodeon India Nina Elavia Jaipuria

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Nina Jaipuria, the EVP and GM for Sonic and Nickelodeon India, is bullish about the kids genre despite the challenges that exist. Jaipuria, who has been at the helm of Nick for more than five years, is hopeful that the channel will bounce back to its 2009 position when it topped the genre.

In an interview with Indiantelevision.com‘s Javed Farooqui, Jaipuria says that Sonic, the action and adventure channel that launched in December last year, will also witness growth. She sees the viewership of kids channels going up in the Southern market, where the local GECs still hold a stranglehold on family viewing.

Excerpts:

You have been at a GEC (Sony) and since last six years, you are handling kids channel. Which genre do you find more challenging?

Both the genres are equally challenging. But to my mind, capturing the kids is more challenging as they get bored faster. Kids have shorter attention span. Saas-bahu serials can run for 10 years and you don’t get bored but try doing that with children. It’s impossible… which really means that you have to innovate that much more quickly and stay ahead of the curve.

Unlike GEC where you need non-fiction to get the eyeballs and then the fiction takes care of your bread and butter, I think there is no such concept in kids genre. I think it’s a tougher category also because we have huge pipeline issues and the timelines. A GEC channel can produce a show in two months but for us it will take two years because it is animation. So the pipeline is so much tougher and therefore we have to plan that much in advance. Having said that, the GEC category is also difficult because we are talking about a scale that is very large and thanks to competition, the risk there only gets higher.

However, if you build kids loyalty, then it is about how you keep them going. Your challenge is how you can bring them to the channel day after day.

Despite being third in the pecking order, why does the kids genre not command the kind of ad revenues it should?

It is hugely under-indexed and that has been going on for a long time. We were given for free and there is a CPRP benchmark that no advertiser is willing to pay that much.

However, advertisers have started believing that kids have a lot of peer pressure, purchasing power and influence on family purchases. And, therefore, you see advertisers coming to the kids category. But it is growing slowly and steadily. Five years back, the market was Rs 1.4 billion and today it has grown to Rs 2.5 billion.

Will slowdown have an impact on ad spends?

In 2009, when there was a slowdown, we did not really witness it as much because a large portion of advertisers who advertise on kids channels are FMCGs, food & beverages and toys, which did not cut back that much compared to radio or print because they have more local advertisers and more of retail and finance.

Coming to Nick, position wise the channel has slipped to No. 2 or 3. How do you plan to get back on top?

We are the number two or number three player in the category. Summer has been good and thanks to all the new content that has gone on the channel, we will continue to retain our number there position.

We retained the top position for two years and I think that is a long enough time. We hope to come back (to the top position). Everything that goes up has to come down, these are all cyclical vagaries of the business.

‘Sonic and Nick are two different brands. While Nick is humour and little of action, Sonic is a hardcore action and adventure brand‘

Oggy and the Cockroaches was one of your tentpole properties. This has now shifted to Cartoon network. What do you think about your other properties?

My tentpole property is Ninja Hattori and I would have also said Oggy and the Cockroaches but it has now moved to Turner (Cartoon Network). But Oggy gave us a good result for the three years that it was with us. So with all due respect, these are vagaries of the business and we are planning to build our own properties. We have Keymon Ache, of which we have already done 26 episodes and have greenlighted the second season of the show.

We launched Power Rangers and now we have new Power Rangers coming back. Then after Samurai, we have Super Samurai. We have the third one as well in 2013. Thus, we will have a lot of Power Rangers as a property to build. Then there is Kung Fu Panda that we will build. So we will have a lot of solid shows post the Oggy also.

What are the genres you are looking to build content for Nick?

When we started, it was a mix of humour, comedy and various strands of it - slapstick comedy, silent comedy, family comedy shows and Keymon kind of shows.

Kung Fu is a mix of comedy and action which according to me is the only show of its kind which had comedy and action put together. But slowly we realised that our kids are moving towards action even from a category point of view. Look at what’s happening with video games. So we believe that there is a little bit of action required on Nickelodeon. The only action show we are showing on Nick is Power Rangers Samurai so that those kids who want action don’t go anywhere.

What about Sonic?

Sonic and Nick are two different brands. While Nick is humour and little of action, Sonic is a hardcore action and adventure brand. So we have shows like Ultraman, Jackie Chan, Super Strikers, and Ghost at Schools.

Sonic has done very well to get 8 per cent share in a difficult category as children are slow to changing habits. I think there was a gap in the market as no channel was offering 24X7 action and adventure as a proposition. So kids had to go to MTV Roadies, Fear Factor or once on a while they would go to play video games or watch movies like Dabangg. This gap we fixed with Sonic.

When kids are growing up, they are shying away from watching kids’ channels. But they were not big enough to go to MTV or Vh1. So we found out a nice gap as well as target audience. In fact, Sonic is doing very well in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. We have got an eight per cent market share within six months and 22 per cent reach in 85 minutes of time spent, as of last week.

What are your revenue expectations from the two channels?

We have been growing at 9-10 per cent every year and I hope that we continue to grow at that range. From revenue perspective, ad sales is the big brother. Subscription is not significant at this stage but should grow post digitisation. After that comes licensing and merchandising, but they are taking only baby steps.

How are you growing the L&M biz?

We are increasing our character base and with that we are increasing our product range. We have 55 licensees on board this year across categories. We can grow this with depth and width. What I mean by width is that we increase characters. Every single character grows into every single product category. When I talk about depth, we look at every single category in the life of a kid.

We have launched footwear with Metro shoes, we also have toys of popular characters like Dora, Ninja and Spongebob. TI Cycles is going to offer co-branded Dora The Explorer and Ninja bicycles. We also have DVDs and VCDs coming for Keymon and Dora.

Talking about content, still most of the content on your channel remains animation. Why is it so?

Except Power Rangers and Ultraman, almost all of our content is animation. The reason we do so much animation is because kids come to the category for two reasons: one is to get rid of boredom and second is get rid of all pressures. And animation is the only alternate universe, which allows them to enter the fictionary and imaginary world which allows them to get rid of boredom. Try to do that with live action and you can never achieve it as it is as real as it can be. Because we are a tailor-made category for children, animation will always be the fulcrum.

But kids’ channels are experimenting with Hindi movies also.

Even I don’t understand that. I put movies on Sonic because I think adventure as a genre is served with movies. But we put on kids’ movies like Jurassic Park that are catering to that genre.

But is it to prevent them from shifting to other genres?

I think they are passive viewers. They are captive audiences to what they watch and, therefore despite fragmentation, the category continues to grow. The fact is that kids continue to come back to the category because the content is tailor-made for them. The only reason why the viewership hasn’t grown to the extent it should have is because India is largely a single television household.

To what extent did the IPL impact the genre?

Fortunately for us, we don’t have a fixed prime time slot. And it never had much of an impact because for us we have viewership throughout the day and IPL matches were at 4 pm and 8 pm. It’s not like a GEC where 8 pm is prime time.

We do have 12-3 pm and 6-8 pm as primetime slots. And the best thing about the country is that in some cities, kids go to school in the morning and in some cities in the afternoon. So somebody is watching us at all hours of the day.

While the kids genre is seeing growth in the HSM, the same cannot be said about the South market. Why?

That is because all of us are late entrants to the South market. We launched our Tamil and Telugu feed for Nick one year back. Also, kids in those markets have been watching the local content for very long in their own language. But it’s picking up.

How much do you focus on digital medium for connecting with your target audience?

To me, digital is important because our TG is more digital savvy than you and me put together. Interactivity has become a large part in the kids’ space today because they have access to mobile and internet. They communicate with us on nickindia.com or sonicgang.com. We also have Power Rangers games on both these websites, besides downloads and wallpapers. There is a lot of interactivity that is happening there. Then we have contests happening on Facebook. The Keymon game on Nokia has got two million downloads. We have over 200,000 fans for Nick on Facebook and over 100,000 fans for Sonic.

What are your plans for the year?

We have two big shows coming up on Nick - Cedric and Tony and Alberto. Cedric is about a boy who is mischievous and wants his grandfather to help but normally they are more in trouble than out of it. Tony and Alberto is about the story of a boy and a dog. Both are very mischievous and funny shows talking about the 9-10-year-old boys. The shows will be coming on air in July. We have two new shows coming on Sonic as well - Ghost at Schools and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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