Television

'2006 will see us as a true lifestyle brand, continuing to provide the best in entertainment' : Anshuman Misra - Turner Intl. India Pvt. Ltd managing director

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A decade milestone crossed, Turner International's kids channel Cartoon Network is gearing up for the next 10! More competition in the space or not... the channel is gearing up to aggressively hold on to its number one slot in the genre. And Pogo is growing up, as a strong second channel.

In this interview with Indiantelevision.com's Hetal Adesara, Turner International India Pvt. LTD managing director Anshuman Misra speaks about the company's strategies to retain leadership and how integration and innovation is the key to becoming a successful kids' network.

Excerpts:

Cartoon Network has enjoyed monopoly in the Indian market ever since its launch. But the two Disney channels and Hungama TV have gained some market share last year and even Nick has aggressive plans in 2006. Given this scenario, what is the programming, marketing and promotional efforts the network is making in order to retain its leadership position in the market in which it hitherto had no competition?

As the leader and champion of the kids' genre in India, we are extremely happy and satisfied that other networks are finally seeing the potential we saw in the genre 10 years ago.

A multi-player market is great as it keeps us thinking and only adds to our innovation and growth and more importantly, offers choice to the consumer. As an international player, such a competitive environment is something we are used to dealing with across the globe. However, it is important to note that the position we enjoy today in India is the same as we did 10 years ago - we are the number one kids' channel in India!

We seriously don't believe in shifting or changing strategies to accommodate/combat other networks. As an established leader in the kids' television genre, 10 years in India has taught us that it is necessary to innovate, invest, evolve, and understand the environment in which one is operating.

Most importantly, we are dealing with one of the most intelligent consumers - KIDS, and LISTENING to them has been the key to our success. Therefore, what we have achieved over the last decade, be it launching a new channel Pogo; holding multi-city signature consumer events like Toon Cricket, Toon Games, Toon Yatra; acknowledging the amazing kids' of India through Pogo Amazing Kids' Awards, Join The Powerpuff Generation; conducting comprehensive researches like Straight From The Experts, New Generations; acquiring, producing and commissioning the best available animated and live action content like The Powerpuff Girls, Sesame India, M.A.D, Bam! Bam! Bam! Gir Pade Hum…,Ramayan The Legend Of Prince Ram, Make Way For Noddy, Bob The Builder, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber Of Secrets, Beyblade etc; or ensuring that our content is available across various platforms through promotional licensing, products - is all part of a larger game plan and mission statement.

With the coming in of so many kids channels in India, do you think that the market has grown or is it just that the new players are eating into the shares of the existing players?

As I mentioned earlier, competition is healthy and important as it offers choice to the consumer, forces the existing players to work hard and provide quality entertainment.

Fragmentation is a reality but at the same time, so is growth. The kids' genre is definitely very important today but it is also in its nascent stages in India. There is a lot of scope for growth and innovation - a key reason that both Cartoon Network and Pogo are constantly working round the clock to ensure there is a novelty factor in whatever we do.

The Indian pie is currently still growing, allowing multiple players to co-exist. But I firmly believe that premium, quality content that is intelligently programmed will be the key differentiator. However, we also believe that entry of serious players will help Turner in its pioneering mission to grow the kids' space and ultimately help Cartoon Network and Pogo, the clear leaders, to grow even further.

What according to you is the way forward for kids' channels to survive in the competitive market?

Quiet simply iconic characters like Tom & Jerry, Scooby-Doo, The Powerpuff Girls; innovation such as the Tom & Jerry ad for All-Out; quality programming that is a fine balance between international and local programming such as M.A.D, Bam! Bam! Bam! Gir Pade Hum…, Ramayan, Pandavas, Tenali Raman, Chhota Birbal, Vikram Betal, Beyblade, Harry Potter, Noddy, Bob The Builder, Thomas The Tank Engine, Sesame Street India; timely responses and brand extensions like establishing your characters as great brand ambassadors through promotional licensingand branded products.

Integration of all of the above, keeping the viewer and content in mind is the key to a successful kids' network.

'We seriously don't believe in shifting or changing strategies to accommodate or combat other networks'

What is Turner's India strategy for Cartoon Network in India?

We are the vanguards of the kids' segment in India and have been for the past decade and hope to continue to be the number one choice of Indian kids!

What have been the landmarks for Cartoon Network in its 10 year run in India?

Ten years is a long time for a channel to sustain and retain its leadership, especially when everyday we learn something new at the network. But to highlight the key ones, the first was pioneering the genre itself in 1995, when the industry seriously doubted the viability of the venture.

Today, we feel very proud to see the importance the genre now enjoys. The next would be when we recognised and intelligently filled the gap by launching Pogo - which also spurned the growth of this segment.

Another would be when we launched the first specialised programming block for young kids' Tiny TV - thus providing them a safe entertaining and educating destination for this important but then neglected age-group. This also led to change in programming strategies of kids' networks - from just a uniform addressing of 4-14 year olds, today we have programming for pre-schoolers, young teens, family, etc.

Yet another landmark would be our hugely successful localisation strategy, which includes languaging, customisation of events and stunts and most importantly acquisitions of home-grown productions. We were the first international kids' (and for a long while the 'only') channel to provide locally produced animated products a national platform.

Moving on, launching Cartoon Network branded consumer products was a landmark in itself. The other defining moment would be extending Cartoon Network into the everyday life of a kid. You can experience Cartoon Network now without turning on the TV screen. Whether it is consumer products, promotional licensing, online, the bigger better Toon Cricket - we present ourselves as a lifestyle brand. The experience that the child and the family on the whole have is elevated with these efforts.

What is your vision for Cartoon Network in 2006?

Kids' entertainment has come a long way, and we are pleased to have been the key driver in shaping the future of kids' entertainment in India. For 2006, our vision is to provide all-encompassing entertainment options that can be enjoyed by both kids and families alike.

We will continue pushing the boundaries and redefine kids' entertainment by going beyond the confines of a television set that include venues, events, merchandise, etc. 2006 will see us as a true Lifestyle brand, continuing to provide the best in entertainment!

How do you see the kids' space panning out in India in the next year? Any key changes you foresee…

As my colleague Ian (Diamond) says, "One can only consider the future, not predict it." Going by this, I seriously think that the future for the kids' segment is extremely bright, the genre will witness healthy growth - especially with Turner launching the localised version of Sesame Street.

However, I strongly feel that premium quality content, innovation and experience will continue to be the key differentiators and benchmarks for success.

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