Television
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Sun TV bullish on dubbed international content for kids

Sun TV has plans to launch English channels for which it has started buying rights

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MUMBAI: The kids' genre in India was always sidelined by broadcasters, but not anymore. There was a time when international content dominated the Hindi kids’ channels' space, but now broadcasters have pulled up their socks to provide home-grown content to young animation fans. But the scene in the regional kids' content space hasn't evolved much. 

Home-grown content on Indian television is growing by leaps and bounds, especially when it comes to the Hindi kids’ channels. Players like Sony Yay, Nickelodeon and Discovery Kids have realised that the taste buds of kids are going bonkers watching characters Chhota Bheem, Guru and Bhole, Little Singham and Motu Patlu. But, regional kids’ channels leader, Sun TV, that has four channels in the market namely Chutti TV (Tamil), Kochu TV (Malayalam), Khushi TV (Telugu) and Chintu TV (Kannada) has 80 per cent of syndicated content from overseas.

Sun TV head-content and acquisition Kavitha Jaubin, who also runs the kids channels, says that it buys international content and dubs it in the four languages. “Apart from this, we have in-house shows like breakfast show in the morning, for young parents and kids, and all this is regional specific. Predominantly 80 per cent of the content is animation and that is international content which is dubbed,” she says.

In 2016, the supply of India-produced shows was limited compared to the unlimited reign of Japanese content and other foreign language cartoons. Since Japan has 15-20 years of headstart over India, its library was massive. It was the initial days when Cartoon Network had 91.61 per cent foreign shows, Pogo had 82.67 per cent while Disney had 60.61 per cent shows from abroad. 

International content dubbed in regional languages such as, Gloomy Bear, Talking Tom, Garfield, and Dora, works well for Sun Network. Sun TV’s target audience includes 4-14 years of kids, and the channel garners traction during 7 to 9 am when they get ready for school and during 3 to 7 pm after they are back.

Jaubin believes that live action content and animation form of cartoons is the staple for kids. According to her, original programming connects with the audience, but kids prefer animation series because they are more inclined towards fantasy and imagination.  

Jaubin says that as of now, the network only has one property involved named Happy Kids, which is an animated series launched for the Kerala market. She reveals that there are plans to launch an English channel for which it has also started buying rights.

When it comes to general entertainment channels (GECs) on TV in India, the production cost for the same is lesser than that of animation. A media expert explained to Indiantelevision.com that producing episodes for Hindi's 2D and 3D, 11-22 minutes would cost Rs 10-20 lakh or even above, depending on the number of characters, background and many other factors.

Another media professional, however, gave a higher estimate. “Any top show’s production value is between Rs 30-50 lakh. Good content has to be produced at such cost. If we talk about producing for outside, the production cost will be up to Rs 1 crore per episode.”

Moreover diclosing about the regionals kid' segment production cost, a media expert said, “11-12 minutes per 2D episode, costs Rs 5-6 lakh and not more than that.” This clearly indicates that regional kids’ genre is way beyond Hindi kids’ channels and GECs.

Jaubin agrees that the amount of money required to produce a show for the regional audiences is comparatively lower than the Hindi market. She added that they don’t stick to local producers and in fact, there are many national content makers and animators who do it at a very low cost. “We try and contact them to build a robust property. For us, quality plays a major role," she says. Anything that is made for the own territory is far more expensive than syndicated content.

The tussle between TV and digital is already flaming in the industry. Sun TV has its focus completely on TV. To this Jaubin says, “At the end of the day, it is all about TV. We are using digital to bring more viewers for TV. We do a lot of contests and other things, so it’s mainly to authenticate kids on various other platforms but to bring them back on television.”

She adds that digital is ruling as kids now-a-days, have iPads and mobile phones in their hands. “Our strategy includes, wherever the kids are, we are also there, so we make sure that we are present at any of the kids event, we are also doing a lot of associations because recently we had an event with The Hindu, Hamleys etc. So wherever we go we find new kids who aren’t actually aware of such shows, or are not television savvy, so they also see the invariability of the shows and come back to our channels.” All digital contents is shown on TV too.

Speaking about merchandising, Jaubin says that the investment is more in smaller items. “We don’t create bigger property, we have t-shirts, mugs based on our logo. We are doing it on a very small level. As of now, we don’t have any bigger plans for merchandising.”

Being the market leader, Sun Network has the ability to decide and set the kind of content children view. It hasn't yet had to experiment much but if the demand comes, it will have to adapt.

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