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Indian OTT platforms dish out special fare for kids

The lockdown has boosted the demand for kids' content.

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Photo by Julia Coimbra on Unsplash

MUMBAI: Streaming services have started taking the central stage of entertainment in Indian living rooms for quite a while now, catalysed more by the Covid2019 crisis. But it’s not possible to lay a strong foundation if the new-age entertainers don’t have anything in store for those loved little ones. While YouTube with numerous kids’ channels has been reigning  supreme over others for quite a while, the game is changing as over-the-top (OTT) platforms pay their attention to kids programming with new strategies. Along with international players, leading home-grown players have also made strides towards building noticeable offerings in the vertical.

On last children's day, Viacom18’s VOOT, one of the major home-grown services in India, launched a dedicated service VOOT Kids, despite having a good portfolio of kids’ content on the main service. Rather than limiting it to entertainment, the new subscription-based service is a combination of fun and learning. VOOT Kids business head Saugato Bhowmik said the service started showing very good results from December onwards. Followed by customer acquisition, the journey from free trials to paid subscribers also started climbing significantly till February. From the mid-March when children started staying home, VOOT Kids’ daily subscriber additions jumped 6X from the pre-lockdown period.

“In fact, in the early days of April, the peak we reached was nine times of pre-lockdown period. We were adding nine times and then we stabilized at about six times. So, the user base has expanded dramatically. Secondly, the time spent on the platform has also grown dramatically. So we already started this platform with a very high time spent, 70 minutes per viewer per day in December itself. Now 70 minutes is higher than most other OTT platforms. Today that number stands at 95 minutes, even some days it touched a hundred minutes,” Bhowmik added. The numbers shared by him relate to VOOT’s separate venture in kids’ space.

Another leading OTT player in the country also revealed a hefty line-up of kids content recently; ZEE5 launched ZEE5 Kids, a dedicated section within the app. “It becomes an integral part of the content offering that we need to have on the platform, so it becomes holistic in nature. We are coming with hyper sports, there are kids content, premium content, direct-digital movies, there are movie premiers, catch-up content, news content. In that sense, there is something for everybody. Kids are an important target group that we needed to address on ZEE5,” said ZEE5 India programming head Aparna Acharekar commented.

Acharekar mentioned that even before launching the section, the platform had kids content. It saw good viewership coming from limited hours of kids’ content leading to a full-fledged vertical, she said. However, both ZEE5 and VOOT Kids are not limiting the content bouquet to entertainment, but a blend of fun and learning.

ShemarooMe, one of the newest entrants in the OTT race, is also focusing on the vertical. “At Shemaroo, we have always kept the preferences of audiences at the core of our offerings and our kids’ content is a high point for us with a special emphasis on learning about the rich Indian heritage, culture and values, which distinguishes us. The kids’ content on ShemarooMe is for a wider age group of two to 14 years, with focus on Indian mythology, stories, Indian personalities and early learning too. The kids’ genre has always been under-indexed,” Shemaroo Entertainment Animation, Digital Kids and L&M senior vice president Smita Maroo said.

“However, the current situation has seen a growth in the overall kids’ genre across all platforms. Kids’ content on OTT platform helps in bringing the entire family together in consuming content which has seen a significant rise. There has been a spike of nearly 100 per cent in the viewership and the consumption has nearly doubled on kids’ movies and edutainment content since lockdown,” she added.

Although international platforms lack content in local languages, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+Hotstar have a significant amount of programming for the younger audience. Moreover, Disney+ recently making itself available in India has opened up a humongous amount of classics for the children. While Netflix has upped its local content in India, it has rolled very few original kids content in India. But in the limited store, Mighty Little Bheem has emerged as the most-watched preschool series on the service globally, and the second-most-watched kids’ series for the service worldwide. Released on Netflix in April 2019, it has now been watched by 27 million households around the world. The global streaming giant has also announced another animated show Ghee Happy.

ZEE5’s Acharekar highlighted an important aspect: there is a great opportunity to create content for pre-teen age groups in the Indian market. While there is content like Chota Bheem for the younger age group, there is not much content available for the nine to 14 age group. While acknowledging that international content which has been created for those age groups coming to the country, she noted that there is a limitation of language. 

“When you want to target nine to 14 years’ age groups, we need to serve content for them in languages they are comfortable with. In that sense, certain pockets of the kids segment are underserved.  There are opportunities to do better in regional languages and catering to Indian sensibility and creating more Indian viewers,” she added.

VOOT Kids’ Bhowmik said that the space was underserved but now more and more players are coming in. He said that the ecosystem would only build more because kids need different solutions. Amid the rising competition, he is confident that VOOT Kids will always remain differentiated because of its approach to kids and solving their problems. He also added that the service is adding a lot more features in the next 90 days.

ZEE5, on the other hand, intends to get into user-generated content for kids also. Describing its nature, Acharekar added that it could show auditions, talents that children can come forward and showcase on the platform. She also noted that they are building at the backend a very safe technology for children; so when they launch UGC, parents will find the platform safe to let their children be and brands realize it as a best bet.

“As a content house, we continuously check the consumption patterns and trends in the kids’ space and plan our content pipeline accordingly while Indianness and Indian culture-inspired content always remain at the core of our hearts. We have a rich slate of films, shows and some very interesting edutainment content in the pipeline,” Shemaroo’s Maroo said.

Yes, children will not fall out of options despite the exponential increase in screen time. 

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