Television
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Sony Yay builds local characters to monetise

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MUMBAI: The Indian arm of the Sony Network had it all – GEC, music, film, sports, you name it. What lacked was a brand for the children of the country. That gap was filled when it launched Sony Yay in April this year.

It’s not as if Sony was devoid of kids content. It launched Animax in 2004, a pure anime destination, but branded it as ‘animation for everyone – not just for kids’. In two years time, it dropped kids and plugged into the youth audience of 15-24 year olds and in 2006, it introduced live action.

Over time, the channel lost its lustre and the channel decided to convert it to Yay  in 2017 and grab a share of the 2-14 age group. “Technically we didn’t replace Animax but it sort of gave way to our intention of launching into the kids space, which was the only missing genre for the network. Animax is still available for interested audiences online on SonyLiv,” says Sony Pictures Network India kids genre business head Leena Lele Dutta.

It was early 2016 when the network started researching on what Indian kids love to watch on TV and data pointed to three areas. “Firstly, they like to see funny, happy and laugh-out-loud animation; second they don’t want both animation and live action on the same channel and last was that local characters, local names, ‘takiya qalam’ words strike and instil a chord with children,” she shares. This led to picking 100 per cent animation over live action for Sony Yay.

Sticking to its principle, the channel tied up with local creators for four original animation series - Guru aur Bhole, Sab Jholmaal Hai, Paap-O-Meter and Prince Jai aur Dumdaar Viru, 52 episodes per show. A fifth show, The Fab 5 – Initial Tango, will release during Christmas and the sixth original will be launched next year. “Slowly we will build new stories and characters to resonate with kids of today,” says an excited Lele. Soon it will build a movie bank for the Sab Jholmaal Hai franchise, similar to what Nick does with Motu Patlu and Pogo with Chhota Bheem.

Kids tuning into the channel have become addicted to Sab Jholmaal Hai and Guru aur Bhole. Wasting no time, the channel has started displaying back-to-back episodes now so they can binge watch and connect with the characters. “Once kids start watching these existing shows, you will yourself see the movement of the channel,” she adds. Paap-o-Meter is a novel concept and the channel doesn’t expect it to shoot up instantly. Indeed, data from Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) indicates that for week 39-42 the two shows did top the channel with average Impressions (000s) of 115 and 110 respectively.

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Sony owns the intellectual property (IP) rights for all the shows to squeeze out all the benefits, which cannot be done in acquisitions. Though Sony was ready to shed some bucks for dubbed or acquired content, they could not find one with a large repertoire of episodes (more than 100) and neither did any content fit the channel’s bill.

BARC data also shows that in its first four weeks of launch (week 20-23), the channel had 25,011 average Impressions (000s) sum while the number changed to 22,100 Impressions (000s) sum in week 39-42 for all India age 2-14. Despite the decline, it shows that the initial impression hasn’t faded away.

Keeping in mind the demographics, the channel abstained from keeping it English-centric. “We wanted to remain indigenous, home-grown and local,” she adds. Thus, the main Hindi channel is dubbed into languages of Tamil and Telugu too.

Speaking of advertisers, Dabur Red Paste, Hershey’s, Domino’s Pizza and Lifebuoy are some of the brands associated with the channel. Datta mentions they had 7-8 brands coming on board every week, from FMCG and even those targeting kids.

It will soon look at minting money through other areas and not depend solely on on-air advertising. “Once we make our characters popular, it opens up all avenues for us such as product licencing and digital distribution because we own the IPs,” she says.

Very soon there will be canter activations for kids in 50 cities in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh.

With big ambitions, it remains to be seen if the channel can fight the crowded kids market and see a significant jump in its claim.

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