'Segmentation in kids TV genre makes biz sense in digital era' : Viacom18 EVP & business head - Kids Cluster Nina Elavia Jaipuria

Kids channels, bogged down in an analogue cable TV environment, suddenly find space to grow. Segmented channels is the new mantra. After launching an action and adventure channel Sonic in 2011, Viacom18 has launched another dedicated offering in the form of Nick Junior, a preschool channel targeted at 2-6 years.

Nickelodeon?s move follows Disney?s foray into the preschool space and Zee?s entry into the kids broadcasting space with the launch of its edutainment channel ZeeQ. The common thread between the three channels is that they are pay-driven, unlike the earlier ad supported models.

Nick Jr. makes its arrival at a time when India is moving towards mandatory digitisation of cable networks.

In an interview with Javed Farooqui, Viacom18 EVP & business head ? Kids Cluster Nina Elavia Jaipuria shares her enthusiasm about why she is bullish about the preschool segment and the impact that digitisation will have on the kids TV genre.


Preschool blocks had existed on kids channels. Now we are seeing full-fledged channels being launched targeting preschoolers. How has the business climate changed?

The biggest change is digitisation. We are seeing that happen now. The segmentation in the kids TV genre makes more business sense now because we will have transparency. Subscription revenues will also increase.

Does digitisation make more sense for segmentation in the kids TV genre primarily because of carriage being corrected or you see a substantial gain in subscription revenue as well?

It?s both. It will allow us to try very focussed segmentation which we could have not done in analogue cable TV environment. Today in digital, we can segment as much as we can. Carriage payouts will no longer be a deterrent and pay revenues can only grow. So we are all riding the wave of digital right now and hoping that while we cater to need gaps, we also make business sense.

That is not to say the launch of Nick Junior is a sudden development. Since I started working with Nickelodeon, I always wanted to bring Nick Jr. to India. But then it had to make business sense for everyone.

Are we in a situation where full-run preschool programming on a channel is not yet commercially viable?

I don?t think so.

Why then did BBC shut CBeebies in India despite knowing that digitisation of cable TV networks is happening?

Actually, I am very suprised that it happened so abruptly. I am sure they have their reasons for moving out of the country.

Why do you then have this dual slot (Nick Jr. and Teen Nick) on Nick Jr.?

We could have gone either way -- done a 24-hour channel or have the model of preschool content till 7 pm and teenage programming after that. We have the product and the content that is our own, so it?s just a matter of dishing it out to them.

But we seriously believe that towards the evening this channel will get switched off as most toddlers and their mothers are winding down for the day. So it?s a good idea to use a frequency that is going to be switched off and wanting to keep them switched on. We are also assuming that in a one television household you always have younger siblings and older siblings and when the younger siblings go away, the older siblings take care of the remote.


 ?We will see a lot of localised content as digitisation picks up. In all this, what will continue is animation. No matter how hard you try, live action can never help children to transport to their imaginary world. We will stick to animation?

How do you differentiate Teen Nick from Nickelodeon?

Nick is hardcore animation and will run from 6 am to 7 pm. Teen Nick, on the other hand, is only live action and has all the sitcoms and dramas that are rocking internationally. Most of the kids in India are watching them on YouTube. So you will have Victorious and Unfabulous and those kind of shows which have made it really big in the West but haven?t really got the chance to come to India. They are very teenager shows because they are based on college, music, internet, digital and a lot of comedy. So there are sitcoms and drama that are very different from Nick.

Since Nick Jr. is targeting 2-6-year-olds, wouldn?t the upper end of this age group want to watch television even after seven in the evening?

We have seen that post 7 pm, kids are winding down; most of the remotes are also not in toddlers hands. Even at dinner time, it?s not the toddler that has the remote. I don?t think even the kids category has the remote post 7 because it?s the GECs and News channels that take over. You have this trend in a single television household. That way the battle for remote will continue across every segment.

What kind of research went into launching this channel?

There was no rocket science really about the research. To me every parent would like to do what is best for their child and in today?s competitive world you want your child to learn and develop fast. Therefore, parents are doing everything they possibly can to ensure that their kids are learning and developing and this (Nick Jr.) is filling that need gap to my mind. There certainly was a gap there and there was no offering. The research to that extent is that there is a need gap and parents are looking for this kind of learning and development. What happens in school is hardcore education. We are only complementing that with edutainment.

What is researched is the content and we do this internationally. It?s content that is made worldwide, so the curriculum is set in place. Every show, therefore, teaches a particular skill . So if you look at Team Umizoomi, it?s really maths.

And you must remember that we are getting our international content here. There is even research going on there before they produce any preschool content. We are very careful in keeping Nick Jr. a destination for safe viewing with no violent content.

How important is the preschool segment within the kids genre?

It?s very important from perspectives. One is it allows you to cater to the entire range of kids right from zero to teenage which is what we are now looking at. This was the missing gap that we had in Viacom18. But it?s also important from the consumer products business point of view. We all are trying to create ancillary revenue streams for ourselves outside of ad sales and outside of subscription. Nick Jr. will play a very large role in driving this part of the business.

Will it be an ad-free channel?

Currently it is an ad-free channel, but I don?t think we can continue to be ad-free. Despite everything being said about digitisation, the ratio of subscription-to-ad sales is still skewed. In the Western world, subscription contributes about 65 per cent of the revenues and in India we are not even half of that. However being a responsible broadcaster, we will be very selective of how much and what ads we put.

How much is the subscription revenue for kids channels?

It is under-indexed, I don?t think it will even hit Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion).

What kind of an upside do you see with digitisation?

Nobody has any answer to this question.

Why is Nick Jr. only in English?

It is inherent in India for every parent to learn English. This is an aspirational channel which teaches your child English. If we do this in regional languages, it will defeat the very purpose of being aspirational. The shows are very easy to understand. So when Dora teaches to say A for Apple, that is what causes the child to learn.

So is Dora the link between Nick and Nick Jr.?

Dora has been on Nick and we will keep her there as well because that is the driver show. It also help us from the consumer products perspective.

Will you have local productions for Nick Jr.?

No, because we believe that for this kind of a product there is no boundary. In fact, even as kids grow older it doesn?t matter to them whether it?s a Japanese show or an American show. Therefore you will see a lot of animation featuring on normal kids category. There is no need to create so much desi content and the pipeline we are creating for Nick where we have Keymon Ache and Motu Patlu for this audience is done after a lot of research. It takes a lot of time to make a show.

Disney also launched its preschool channel. What impact will competition have on the genre?

It will only grow the category as there will be more choice. It?s the best thing that can happen to the category. It will only grow the preschool category that was almost non-existent until all of us launched.

How do you see segmentation within Nick?

Nick is the mother brand and it delivers a very core need of a child, which is humour. Nick will continue in that space. While we talk about Nickelodeon audience being very universal, I think it?s 4-14 years, so I never like to box it at any level. I think the core really lies at 6-12 if you really ask me and we will continue to cater to them in humour and comedy.

Within comedy, you have action comedy, family comedy, silent comedy and slapstick comedy. The character either becomes a role model or a superhero and it?s the character that takes over after a point. As you move along, you will see newer episodes of Ninja coming in and that?s how we drive our viewership. You will see the mother brand engaging on the television platform and outside the platform. The Keymon game had 3 million downloads on Nokia Ovi, so we are dealing with what I call the ?screenagers?. It?s all about staying ahead of the curve and engaging with kids across various screens.

Will Nick have more localised content?

I see more localisation happening on that front. But that is also a chicken and egg situation and we have to look at the investment-to-revenue ratio. We don?t know when the subscription revenues will start getting corrected. After that happens, you will see more focus on local content. But having said that, we have two shows and we have a third in the pipeline; you will see a lot more progress on that front. In all this, what will continue is animation. No matter how hard you try, live action can never help children to transport to their imaginary world. We will stick to animation.

Will we see more movies coming out?

We had Keymon Ache & Nani in Space Adventure movie

and you will see movies from Motu Patlu because Bollywood and Hollywood have become not just kids but also family entertainment. As we move from kids to family, you will see more extensions happening.

But till now Nick has not been airing movies?

Series is the bread and butter for us. Kids like to watch, as Farah (Khan) was saying, repetitive content. They want to watch more of the same, so that?s what we give in the weekend as well. We don?t miss not having movies on the channel.

Has ad growth stayed flat for the kids genre this year?

Ad revenue will grow anywhere between 10 to 14 per cent. If you look at the last five years, the CAGR is 14 per cent.

Isn?t the space tough as we have 12 channels fighting for Rs 2.5-3 billion ad revenue market?

It is a hugely under-indexed market. From viewership perspective, we have eight per cent genre share while ad revenue share is just two per cent. Correction is bound to happen. A few years back, this revenue share was just one per cent. So we are growing, although we don?t get what we deserve.

Do you see room for local players entering this space?

We saw UTV launch Hungama years ago. Zee has already made an entry. Let digitisation complete, then only there will be space. In the current scenario, it will be a tough proposition for local players.

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