Mumbai: As one of the biggest beneficiaries of the swell in content consumption during the pandemic, the kids genre witnessed a sea change in terms of formats, time bands, and content themes. The heartening news is, even as kids return to school and exaggerated patterns stabilise, the segment is stabilising at a higher threshold than before. This indicates "a positive movement ahead for the genre," according to WarnerMedia South Asia network head for Cartoon Network and Pogo Abhishek Dutta.
While some recalibration in strategies to address the pending rationalisation was expected, the pandemic agnostic rise in demand for homegrown content is unanimously acknowledged as ‘here-to-stay,’ and hence a top priority, by heads of all channels. But that does not take away from the charm of international classics that are universal and timeless in their appeal. This understanding led Dutta to bring back the action-comedy show "Ben 10" on Cartoon Network in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu after a gap of six years.
A timeless proposition
Dutta believes that now is the perfect opportunity for the next generation of kids to experience the ‘Ben 10 phenomenon.’ “Many youngsters in the 2000s are now parents, and can introduce their favourite show to their kids to enjoy as a family,” he says alluding to the emerging trend of co-viewership on kids’ channels.
The concept is enduring. A boy finds a watch that can transform him into a whole load of aliens with an assortment of special powers to combat bad guys from outer space…what’s not to love? But it’s also got plenty of humour and heart – Ben’s connection with his family is a critical component. Dutta asserts that “Ultimately, it’s an iconic superhero action show featuring alien transformations with an energised style and plenty of visual gags that have kept young viewers hooked over the years. It doesn’t go out of style.”
The journey of 10-year-old Ben Tennyson’s adventures with the Omnitrix watch started with "Ben 10" (2005-2008). It was followed by "Ben 10 Alien Force" (2008), "Ben 10 Ultimate Alien" (2010), "Ben 10 Omniverse" (2012), "Ben 10 Ultimate Challenge" (2013), "Ben 10 With Bentuition" (2016), "Ben 10" (2016), "Ben 10 Express" (2017) and "Ben 10 Challenge" (2017).
As per Ormax Brand Health Study 2021, "Ben 10" is among the top-10 shows watched online. “Ben 10’s popularity has never faded and has transcended age groups with the evolution of its stories and characters. Its appeal on television has played a significant role in driving the channel viewership,” remarks Dutta.
Sharing an understanding of its brand potential he adds, “Ben 10 has been one of the highest-grossing Cartoon Network properties for our Warner Bros Consumer Products business across any kind of category imaginable. Over the years, kids have played with Ben 10 toys, worn Ben 10 clothes, and even tried out Ben 10 adventure rides at theme parks.”
Going local with international content
In 2020, a year after Dutta took charge, the channel launched an all-new version of "The Tom and Jerry Show" with ‘thought-over commentaries’ in regional languages that became an instant hit among fans in India. For "Ben 10," it is bringing back the entire series with dubs in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu to give young fans and families an opportunity to relive the magic of Ben 10’s multiverse and understand the evolution of the series.
The show has consistently featured multiple times among the top-10 slots of the kids category week-on-week since its launch on Cartoon Network in March. In the latest week, it occupied the top slot of the genre in urban India, claims Dutta. He further tells that Cartoon Network and Pogo’s Indian viewers are looking for relatable and engaging stories, resulting in an increased demand for localised content.
“We identified this trend a while ago and have been focusing on developing unique native IPs and localising international content to suit the preferences of our young fans. Our localisation strategy ensures that our fans understand the nuances of the storyline and indulge in the content and quirks of the show. To achieve this relevance we focus on adaptation in our regional feeds instead of literal translation of the international shows that we bring in,” notes Dutta.