Television

'We will get into local movie production early next year.' : Ian Diamond - Turner Entertainment Networks Asia, Inc. Sr VP & GM

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Turner Entertainment Networks Asia, Inc. senior vice president and general manager Ian Diamond is gearing up for the challenge. He realises Walt Disney is in aggressive mode and has gained market share in kids television space by snapping up Hungama TV. But, as he says, "it is demanding on the content providers to keep up the speed."

Turner's aim in 2007 would be churn out more original content in series. The leader in the kids' genre would also be getting into local movie production, he says.

In an interview with Indiantelevision.com's RENELLE SNELLEKSZ, Diamond reveals the opportunities that the rapidly emerging new delivery mechanisms and retail infrastructure throw open in India.

Excerpts:

Looking back on 2006, could you provide an overview of how the year has panned out for both Cartoon Network and Pogo?



Galli Galli Sim Sim which was launched on Independence Day in the Indian market , balances the line between entertainment and education and is more than a television show, it's actually a 'culture of education'.

We also launched SnapToons, promoting the idea of developing animation in India.

The Pogo Amazing Kids Awards (PAKA) though in its third year, we keep trying to re-invent it and this year we decided to change the format by rolling it thorugh 19 half hour episodes, a series that celebrates child heroes.

By breaking beyond the folds of television, Cartoon Network Enterprises (CNE) has launched 18 different categories across 4,000 retailers and 1,000 different product variants in the market across 20 cities. Being a licensing business, we have not only licensed our successful brands like Tom & Jerry but have also licensed third party brands like Beyblade. All in all, CNE has seen a 50 per cent increase in its overall business.

What has been the biggest achievement for both the Turner channels this year?



Our achievements have been that original productions like MAD (Music, Art and Dance) continue to top the charts. If you look across the year, Cartoon Network and Pogo are still the No. 1 and 2 channels. In a fragmented market it's great that people continue to see us as a strong brand.

I wouldn't diminish any of the achievements by saying that one is superior to the other. Galli Galli Sim Sim and PAKA mean something to me but that doesn't imply that the other activities were any worse. What I'm happy about is that 2006 has been a good year all round. It is important that we do a lot of things well, rather than a couple of things that stand out so that there is continuity in the activities undertaken.

How much of the pie does Cartoon Network and Pogo separately corner in kid's television market?



Pogo is about 22 per cent a share while Cartoon Network is 28 per cent. Also in terms of distribution Cartoon Network is viewed 26 million and Pogo 17 million.

We not only continue to rule the roost in the television space but its important that whether it be in publishing, licensing, marketing events we try to provide 'choice' to our consumers. It's a sum of parts kind of business where you do many things that all come together to give the flavour of the brand. It is demanding on the content providers like ourselves to keep up the speed on what people want as their tastes and needs change.

Do you think there is space for more players to enter the kid's television arena?



I do. What's interesting about India is that the retail environment is still nascent, when more organized retail structures come in, the kids business is going to radically open up in terms of new clients, new advertising partners and new products that Cartoon Network and Pogo can provide a platform for. It's going to get really exciting, it's only just started.

It's also something I am looking forward to, as we are working to be well equipped as it happens.

When we launched 11 years ago people thought we were mad to take the kids business seriously and I'm heartened to see that there are others players coming into the market, seeing the values, merits and potential that we saw so many years ago.

What strategy will you adopt to counter the consolidation of three players under one brand, Disney?

We pride ourselves in the fact that we have studied the market for 11 years, you can't just come into the market and expect to know it overnight. You must learn about the people you are talking to.

'We have studied the market for 11 years, you can't just come into the market and expect to know it overnight'

Currently, at what stage does the theme park rollout stand?



By mid next year Planet Pogo will be ready, while Cartoon Network Townsville will open a little later as it is on a much larger scale spanning 6.8 acres in comparison to Planet Pogo which is 3.5 acres. These will have state-of the-art rides and safety measures. It will be India's first branded theme park environment.

Have there been any trends that have emerged from recent research?



The biggest trend is gaming and is something that has also been highlighted in the recent Next generation findings that show that about 40 per cent of kids are computer users and 1 in 6 of these also surf the internet. Their favourite internet activity is playing games (32 per cent) and that led us to roll out an Xbox video gaming championship Toonami Game On.

The spurt in growth of kid's channels has lured both conventional and non-conventional advertisers to come on board. Which new advertisers have joined in and by how much has the ad sales increased over the year?



Several new categories have joined in like PCM software (Apply, Sify, Lenovo), Amusement Parks (Black Thunder, Prakash Amusement park, Ocean Park Multitech) and consumer durables (LG, Whirlpool) have been added to our client base.

It's interesting to know that kids have a strong influence in the purchase decision which non-conventional advertisers like Maruti and Bajaj are recognizing. Like for instance, ICICI introduced that young star account for which we licensed Tom & Jerry. Research also supports that 71 per cent of parents agreed that their child influences which brand is chosen while buying television sets, 70 per cent for computers, 67 per cent while buying mobile phones and 66 per cent on the purchase of a car. Other non traditional clients include BPCL, ING-Vyasa, All-Out, Citibank, Bombay Dyeing and Red Label, among others.

On a business level, we have seen a 21 per cent ad sales growth year on year.

'We have seen a 21 per cent ad sales growth year on year'

What advice would you give parents who think television viewing is harmful as it decreases outdoor activities and habituates kids to become 'couch potatoes'?



Watch Galli Galli Sim Sim! Kids like to watch TV. The important thing for a broadcaster is to provide choice, something that falls back on an educational element having strong positive values. Also our preschool block like Tiny TV with shows like Oswald, Make Way for Noddy are created to enhance development. Even MAD helps to reinforce what is often lost out in school, creativity.

But at the end of the day the parent has the responsibility to monitor and regulate the content that the child is consuming.

What can we expect from the Turner twins next year?



At the moment we are in the process of moving into the movies space. I will be back in India early next year to announce our line up of a lot more original content in terms of movies and series in India. In addition, we will also provide a platform for materials that other people make through acquisitions. There must be a balance between international and locally produced content hence we have to juggle around to give the right mix so that the menu is good, making people come back.

In addition, the radical evolution of retail infrastructure and new delivery mechanisms like new media, especially the mobile will drive change in this space. Although, I still get excited about old mediums used in a new way, you need to reinvent yourself and reinvent the medium you play with to speak to people in new way.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for Turner in 2007?

To build on the events of 2006 and continue to raise the bar to provide quality entertainment for kids via multiple mediums. Our mission for next year is to extend beyond television to build kids super brands and push the envelope.

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