Sun shines on kids

The Sun TV Network - with its repertoire of 33 channels across genres including entertainment, music, movies, comedy, news and kids - is arguably a very big name in television (media), both in India and Asia.

While the group debuted with its entertainment channel, Sun TV, back in 1993, children got their very own space on the network not before 2007. The Kids Cluster, as it came to be called, kick-started with Chutti TV (Tamil), followed soon by Kochu TV (Malayalam), Chintu TV (Kannada) and Kushi TV (Telugu).

Of the four kids channels, Chutti and Kochu are extremely popular with a nearly 80 per cent reach in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, respectively.

Kavitha Jaubin knows that maintaining a kids channel is difficult but for Sun Network it has proved to be a good market

The mainstay of the cluster, whose core target is kids in the age group of four to fourteen years, is cartoon acquisitions from numerous distributors and production houses like Sony Pictures, Warner Bros, Viacom18 and Scholastic. 80 per cent of the content is similar on all four channels while the remaining 20 per cent varies based on cultural preferences of the state in question.

Says Sun TV Network Kids Cluster of Channels Head Kavitha Jaubin: "Till now, we‘ve only been airing acquired content but we hope to own a few titles soon, considering how well we‘ve understood our little audience‘s interest patterns and what content they view the most."

The acquired content has to be dubbed by a skilled team in each state, which develops a script in the respective language. "The USP of our channel content is the nature of dubbing. It is extremely witty and is thoroughly enjoyed by our audience," says Jaubin, adding that nearly a week goes into scripting and dubbing an episode.

Yes, there is some amount of in-house content produced by the network‘s 20-strong programming team, which includes game shows, chat shows, news segments, cookery shows and arts and crafts shows. For the purpose, they have studios in Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore.

While a major portion of the content is international, the network is looking to change this trend by including more local content. Some of the popular shows include Geronimo Stilton from Moonscoop, Penguins of Madagascar, Avatar from Viacom18, Jackie Chan Adventures from Sony Pictures and Little Prince from DQ Entertainment. Recently, the network acquired Little Krishna from Viacom 18 for Janmashtami, and is looking to acquire more such as Barney and Friends.

Since the cluster caters to kids, the channels take care to handpick the content and also censor it to suit the tiny tots.

"There are a few things that we particularly avoid - violence, content that hurts the sentiments of any section of the population or forces parents to scrutinise it," says Jaubin.

The other thing the network does in terms of cartoons is placing them as per the time band and the age of the audience viewing them.

The morning audience mainly comprises kids between eight and 10 years of age, which changes to pre-schoolers by afternoon. Whereas, evenings are when kids in the age group of 9-14 years watch these channels, often accompanied by parents. At this hour, the channel claims to focus on edutainment type of cartoons more than action.

Speaking of cartoons, those among the Kids Cluster of Channels airing them seem to be doing well.

Mudra Max Media south head Anil Sathiraju says that a channel which talks regional does better than the one which does not. "Chutti TV is doing very well and for a kids‘ TG, it delivers fantastically," he says.

According to Sathiraju, the cartoon genre doesn‘t face competition from regional channels, with only Chithiram TV from the Kalaignar Group doing fairly well in Tamil Nadu and none in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

It‘s mainly national channels like Pogo, Cartoon Network and Disney that are capable of giving the cluster channels a run for their money. "The effect Pogo gives is pan-India while a Chutti TV or a Chintu TV is only restricted to the state," says Sathiraju.

Advertising-wise, the ads aired on these channels are directed straight at the kids who‘re watching. The prime time of 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm on weekdays and also weekends is when advertisers make the most out of their products. ITC, Surf Excel and Horlicks are some of the brands that advertise with these channels.

Sun TV sources revealed all four channels in the cluster would be generating advertising revenue in the region of Rs 80 crore with Chutti and Kochu contributing a lion‘s share.

The channels are hardly visible on the digital front. The website has a game section which includes colouring and puzzles. A small section allows users to upload their childrens‘ photos on their birthdays that will be displayed on the site. Show timings for the day can also be found out.

Children dressed up for an event organised by Chintu TV

Most of the marketing they do is for their shows through outdoor events. There are regular events and contests, the most recent one being on Janmashtami when kids were made to dress up as Lord Krishna and his consort Radha and click photographs.

Other events include Chutti Premiere League on the lines of IPL, where a cartoon character heads a team and children vote for their favourite team; theme-based carnivals and so on. "This has definitely helped us gain visibility and intensify the already existing popularity," says Jaubin.

Is there room for more channels in the kids‘ space? "It is a challenge to tailor programs that suit kids‘ interests, and at the same time, sustain it," says Jaubin.

As things stand, the Kids Cluster seems to have made a place for itself in kids‘ hearts although it continues to face stiff competition not from regional but national children‘s channels.

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