2-14 age-group is highly under-indexed, avers Sony Yay! business head Leena Lele Dutta

Leena Lele Dutta had been hired in 2007 to establish the content distribution and licensing division of Sony Pictures Television in India in 2007 and expand the footprint thereafter into the south Asian markets. It's been more than nine years Dutta has been a part of growing Sony family.  Currently, Dutta is heading the Sony Pictures Network India?s CEO N P Singh?s brainchild new kids channel -- Sony Yay! In conversation with Sonam Saini, Dutta shared her experience of shifting from B2B to B2C.


You have been with Sony Pictures Television for over nine years. How has been the shift from content distribution arm to heading a kids channel? What are the challenges you are facing?

My earlier role with SPE back in 2007 was to set up the content distribution arm for India and that included licensing of various Hollywood movies the studio produced and acquire across its four main studios. Not only the movie piece but also the television shows which are actually produced there and syndicated here in the network.

The first year was invested in establishing the content arm and figuring out the role because, prior to that, I was a hardcore ad sales person. This is was the new channel but, in seven years, the market has also evolved.

Being the country manager, I was responsible for monetisation of the existing content, and here it is the other way round. Here, it is the health of the overall business, here it is more of a B2C business. Here your clients are 2-14-year-old kids who are there across the length and breadth of the country. A kids channel was the missing link in the network.

It is a mindset evolution. What made is easier is the transition within the Sony family. The kids channel, NP?s (N.P Singh) brainchild, wanted to get somebody on board, and here I am.

Where did you see scope for a kids channel?

A lot of scope existed in the space. With our four desi shows, we are very confident of making a mark. More similar shows are coming in October, and being the only channel that caters 100 per cent desi content, we will definitely have a well-known presence by the end of first year for Sony Yay!.

We also want Sony Yay!, as the brand name stands for happiness, to spread happiness and contentment among the kids.

The same thing will reflect in our marketing strategies. We will have lots of mall activities, theme park activities which resonate with Yay! We will also have CSR activity which will give Yay! moments to kids. These measures will co-exist with our content offering.  We would be pursuing school contract programme after summer breaks.

How big is the kids genre in India market?

The category is the third largest after Hindi general entertainment channels and Hindi movies channels. Accordig to the new BARC system, the 2-14 age group (*) is phenomenally huge. The biggest challenge this category has right now is that it?s highly under-indexed. 

A lot of advertisers are looking to invest in the kids category -- to focus on the 2-14 age-group. However, they are completely discounting the parents who are watching the content as well. In the coming months, we hope to engage with parents more in consuming our channel and not only expand the category. We also have significant play in the area where it is seen more seriously than just a kids channel.

What will Sony Yay!'s strategy going forward?

The strategy is very clear, we wanted to be the most preferred brand among the kids. We want people to know what Sony Yay! stands for.  Our partnership with Tiger Shroff has worked tremendously well. We have got a huge response from the kids and their mothers. The launch campaign has been talked about.

Our colleagues in the industry have observed quite a movement in this category. Whatever we are doing including our content and marketing initiatives, we are here for the long haul. From day one, a lot of investment and efforts have been put into the new channel to make a mark and shake the category.

At the press conference, you had mentioned that the IPs remain with the channel. Is there a chance that you might sell/licence rights to OTT players?

Those are the primary revenue models we will consider. We will also consider the licensing and merchandising model as well. That's the benefit of owning the IPs, and not sharing. There is a strategy of monetisation going ahead with the characters, but we are not going to roll it out in the immediate future.

What are challenges you faced while distributing the channel?

Luckily, our distribution team has been phenomenal as we stand today we are present in almost 90 per cent of all digital homes. We have been fairly well distributed -- in fact, some major MSOs are willing to carry us in top five of the kids genre, which helped boost our ranking.

(* Sony has helped rectify the BARC India category figures to GRP 582)  

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