Kids channels swing into high action

After a flood of four channel launches in 2004, the kids genre has swung into big action with three new appearances last year and the announcement of Discovery to enter the segment this quarter.

The battle isn‘t going to be easy as the advertising pie is pegged at Rs 2.4 billion in 2011, up from Rs 2 billion a year ago, and the licensing and merchandising market is still at its infancy in India.

Broadcasters, however, are finding strategic value to occupy the space at a time when India is waking up to the government’s call of mandated digitisation.

"Discovery Kids will offer Indian children the ideal combination of learning and entertainment. In light of the massive digitisation drive in India, we believe viewers will express their demand for such distinct television networks," says Discovery Networks International president, CEO Mark Hollinger.

Expanding its bouquet in the southern region, Sun TV Network launched Malayalam kids channel Kochu in 2011 TV to complete its entire cycle of covering the four languages. Sun had launched Chutti TV in Tamil (2007), Kushi TV in Telugu and Chintu TV in Kannada (2009).

Maa TV Network launched Maa Junior in Telugu, its first channel in the kids space, while Viacom18 introduced Sonic to complement its other kids channel Nick. Maa Junior has since the beginning of the year transitioned into a GEC and has been rebranded as Maa Gold.

"In 2011, two regional broadcasters launched language channels to expand their networks in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. The Viacom18 channel was more a segment strategy to complement Nick," says a media analyst.

Sonic targets children in the age group of 10-17 years with action, sitcoms and adventures. The movies cater mainly to teens.

What is encouraging kids broadcasters is the rise in viewership. The overall genre is on a growth path due to channel launches, according to research agency TAM. The total share of the genre grew to 18 per cent among the 4-14-year-olds (C&S, All India), largely due to the growth in the universe of kids to 48 million in 2011, from 43 million a year ago.

According to Sonic and Nick India EVP and GM Nina Elavia Jaipuria, the genre enjoys the loyalty of kids among the age group of 4-14

 despite competition from other genres and has been growing 7-10 per cent year-on-year.

"Despite the fragmentation that has happened in the entertainment world, this is one genre which continues to garner GRPs and viewerships from kids. In 2011, we once again proved to ourselves that it is a genre that is being viewed by boys and girls in that age bracket," she says.

In her yearender column for, Turner International India GM, Entertainment Networks South Asia Monica Tata wrote that the genre not only recorded growth but also saw the entrance of new channels like Sonic. "The kids’ genre grew in regional languages as well. In Tamil, for example, the share of Kids is higher than News. The continued investments in launching new channels and content prove that the kids’ entertainment space is a very viable market."

Even though the kids genre commands 6-7 per cent viewership share, the problem is on the revenue said. However, while traditional advertisers like food & beverages, personal care, and household products continue to be heavy spenders on the genre, non-traditional advertisers like automobiles, electronic devices, and insurance companies have started to take notice of the genre.

"We did see a lot of non-traditional advertisers. We now have insurance companies who are talking to the 4-14 TG," says Jaipuria.

Hindustan Unilever and Cadbury India were top advertisers on the genre for both 2010 and 2011 in a list dominated by FMCGs and personal brands, TAM AdEx data shows. Interestingly, Maa Network and Sun TV, who operate channels in the genre, were among the top 10 advertisers in 2011.

"There has been increasing awareness that kids now have a say in purchase decision-making that extends far beyond traditional categories. Today, around 63 per cent of parents involve their children in the decision making process. This is one of the main reasons that has attracted advertisers to kids’ channels in order to effectively target families," says Turner South Asia network head ad sales Juhi Ravindranath.

Agrees Walt Disney Television International India business head Vijay Subramaniam, "Brands understand the importance of engaging this TG because this is a very loyal base. It is important to realise that the kids of today will become the consumers of tomorrow. A lot of advertisers are now including kids channels in their advertising mix.

L&M is another revenue stream the channels are betting big on. Disney, for instance, has inked a licensing deal with Mukesh Ambani-owned IPL franchise Mumbai Indians to launch co-branded merchandise products targeted at under-14 kids segment. The merchandise will be sold in around 5,000 Reliance retail outlets and will be also be promoted through the digital medium.

But considering the number of channels in the genre and the ad revenues it attracts, is running a kids channel a viable proposition?

Jaipuria feels it depends on the business models of the individual channels and whether or not they fill the need gap. "How the channels source content – whether it is a localised or is it sourced internationally – also plays a role in channels‘ viability. Although the gestation period for a kids channel maybe longer than other genres, it‘s about having an intelligent business model and having a right mix of content," she avers.

Jaipuria is also betting big on digitisation as it will make possible an increase in subscription revenues and bring down high carriage fees.

Sun Group CEO Tony D‘Silva believes kids channels need to become more and more segmented as their needs keep changing as they grow up. "Right now most of the channels are targeted at 4-14 age groups," he avers.

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