MUMBAI: With schools shut for most part of the year due to the deadly virus doing the rounds, kids remained confined to their homes in 2020. Parents, too, were busy juggling the demands of working from home, leaving kids with little choice other than to spend most of their time in front of TV screens. While that drove the viewership of kids' channels, it was not entirely a joyful ride for linear broadcasters, who faced multiple challenges. The implementation of new tariff order (NTO) by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) hit the revenues and viewership also witnessed a decline. The kids' genre was no exception.
Discovery Kids head Uttam Pal Singh delved upon some of these challenges in an exclusive conversation with indiantelevision.com. “We spent 2019 consolidating our little strength and 2020 laid the foundation of what we could do next. During the pandemic, kids' channels saw phenomenal growth, and in that period Discovery Kids Channel over skewed in that growth. We grew by 35 to 40 per cent in 2020,” said Singh, adding that the channel fared well last year, but post-NTO, broadcasters had to re-group themselves to decide on new content and create new IPs.
Talking about the challenges thrown by the lockdown, Singh said, “We were able to adapt quickly. The animation studios were working from home, which kept us going. We built on the base created in 2019 and 2020, and planned the entire strategy for 2021. We are still in the consolidation phase in quarter one of this year and getting ready for the summer holiday season starting from April to June.”
With the next academic session all set to begin and summer vacations only a month away, Discovery Kids channel has already prepared its line-up to capitalise on the opportunity. The channel has launched the fourth edition of Kaal movie franchise titled Kaal Ki Shatir Chaal. Kaal ka Badla was the highest-rated Indian animation movie in 2020, highlighted Singh, which he said instilled confidence in the makers to make a film on the negative character Kaal who is equally loved by kids.
Kaal Ki Shatir Chaal is co-powered by brands such as leading ed-tech firm Byju's, Yakult and Act II popcorn, who intend to target young viewers through the film. The story revolves around Little Singham’s biggest enemy Kaal who uses his negative powers to invoke feelings of anger and greed in the minds of people. Made in collaboration with Reliance Animation and Rohit Shetty Picturez, Discovery Kids is all set to premiere the kids’ special movie on 20 March at 11:30 am. To ensure maximum reach and uptake across regional demographics, the animated film will be available in five different languages.
Singh said the makers have attempted to make the show more adventurous while staying true to the wholesome theme of good vs evil. To ramp up viewer engagement, Discovery Kids will also host ‘Kaal Fan Fest’, a hunt for the biggest Kaal fan.
Over the course of the coming months, the channel plans to bring back hit shows and launch new IPs. Singh said, “Last year, we were still building the characters and the stories around our very popular IP Fukreyy Boyzzz. It has been more than a year since the IP is on television. Now we are launching season two of the series on 1 April by celebrating Chucha’s birthday since he is one of the kid’s favourite characters. Post this, we will launch a movie called Bhago Chucha Aaya. This will allow us to experiment with the spooky genre within the Fukrey Boyzzz franchise."
When the holiday season kicks in, the channel will launch 15 new movies, and over a 100 episodes to entertain audiences. “The movies will premiere every week alternatively between Little Singham and Fukrey Boyzzz,” added Singh.
As far as brand integration goes, the channel has a longstanding relationship with chocolate brand Hershey’s for its show Little Singham. Going forward, Singh said he believes the kids genre will become an integral part of the industry; supporting the business, generating the revenue and slowly holding the attention of gatekeepers of the channel which are parents.
According to BARC India, the overall viewership share of the kids' genre grew from 6.4 per cent in 2019 to 7.4 per cent in 2020. However, in terms of advertising, it gets only three per cent of the total ad volumes. But Singh is optimistic that from here on, things will only pick up for the kids segment.
“As far as ad rate goes, the kids genre is in a much better position now. The struggle of getting good rates is still on for the entire genre, but we are on the right path. There is a need for more participation from the brands’ side, and a lot of effort is going from the broadcaster’s side. As the advertisers realise the scale and frequency kids' channels provide, the price correction will happen,” he signed off.