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Effective story-telling in India is yet to evolve, says Viacom18 SVP Anu Sikka

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MUMBAI: The animation services market in 2016 mostly continued to be dominated by outsourced projects from television and film sectors, which accounted for around 85 per cent of the total animation services turnover in India. However, there are a few exceptions such as Nick, which has been the leader in the genre for years according to audience measurement data.

`Motu Patlu' films on Nick, which is part of the Viacom18 family, have been ruling the roost mostly in the top-five list. `Motu Patlu 36 Ghantey Race Against Time’, `HFF-Motu Patlu In Double Trouble’ and 'Motu Patlu Kung Fu Kings' have all been leading in the kids’ genre. The broadcaster along with Viacom18’s movies division also introduced the first 3D theatrical of Motu Patlu i.e. Motu Patlu King of Kings, that was a success.

"We have always conceptualised our own content allowing us to develop our own IPs. The quality, uniqueness and strength of our concepts and stories have ensured that our content remains relevant and sticky, establishing a strong connect with our young viewers, Viacom18 head, programming & content - kids entertainment cluster Anu Sikka told indiantelevision.com.

While dwelling on programming strategy for Nick, she added: “With our strategy, we have managed to drive the trend and take on the leadership mantle in the highly under-indexed kids category."

Adventure and mystery show `Gattu Battu’, which is the fourth made in India character from Nickelodeon, has been running successfully after an encouraging opening on 1 May, 2017. `Pakdam Pakdai’, `Motu Patlu’, `Shiva’ and `Gattu Battu’ are shows that cater to the discerning entertainment needs of the young viewers.

"We aim at creating differentiated kids content for the age-group between 2 and 14 years, investing significantly in television movies such as `Motu Patlu’ and `Pakdam Pakdai’," Sikka informed.

Apart from boasting of one of the most popular shows in the kids' category, `Motu Patlu’, which is produced for Viacom18 by its partner Cosmos-Maya, the company also holds a record of having a large homegrown, made in India content bank within a short duration. `Motu Patlu’ followed by Pakdam Pakdai and then `Shiva’, which launched during Diwali last year, has created a new success yardstick for animation content in the Indian market, Viacom18 claimed.

The Indian animation and VFX industry grew at 16.4 per cent in 2016 to reach a size of INR 60 billion, driven primarily by a 31 per cent growth in VFX, with animation remaining steady at a growth rate of nine percent, as per the KPMG-FICCI Report 2017.

Dwelling on the investments Viacom18 generally makes for producing an animation show for kids, Sikka said that it could range between Rs 5 million and Rs 20 million, depending on various factors such as the intricacy and complexity of the animation, graphics and the script. "We have focused on creation of IPs allowing us to extend our characters to beyond television into other categories such as consumer products and movies etc., allowing us to create an entire ecosystem and facilitate monetisation,” Sikka said.

The uptake of domestic / Indian content may be a key growth driver for the animation industry, and the expected uptake of digital consumption through OTT platforms will add to the increasing demand for localized content. The animation IPR production segment, in 2016, grew at a faster rate owing to increasing demand for localised animation content and characters developed for the Indian market across OTT and TV.

According to Sikka, the ratio of local to foreign content was between 50 and 60 per cent in favour of Indian content.

"We are the pioneers in owning the intellectual property rights (IPRs) by producing our own shows with the intent of building an ecosystem and in the process, started a trend," Sikka said. Once Viacom18 has the IPRs in place, it commissions different production houses to execute the projects, preferring to buy out entire rights than get into joint productions.

The Indian animation and VFX industry is estimated to expand at a CAGR of 17.2 per cent over 2017–21 to reach a size of Rs 131.7 billion, driven by a steady 9.5 per cent growth in animation and a 25 per cent growth in the VFX segment. Although animation in India has come a long way as compared to the situation 10 years ago, Sikka was of the opinion that the audience would lap up stories if those were well told, and that’s why Viacom18 prefers curating its own concepts and owning the IPRs too. "Occasionally, we hear out concepts and stories when some production houses approach us, but there are very few that strike a chord," she added.

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