Cartoon Network, in partnership with Film Kraft Productions and Toonz Animation, will release four animated movie sequels based on the Bollywood hit, Krrish between 2013 and 2014. The first film, Kid Krrish, will air on Cartoon Network on July 14.
The TV entertainment space for the four-to-14 age group is seeing teeming with action as channels and advertisers plug into its growing importance. Over 30% of India's population is below 14.
In response, even within the kids TV genre, we're beginning to see sub-segmentation, more localised content and characters, and edutainment options.
The edutainment space saw the launch of Discovery Kids and pay channel ZeeQ last year. Mark Hollinger, president & CEO, Discovery Networks International, said at the launch: "Discovery Kids will offer Indian children the ideal combination of learning and entertainment. In light of the massive digitisation drive in India, we believe viewers will express their demand for such distinct television networks."
Punit Goenka, MD & CEO, Zee Entertainment Enterprises said of ZeeQ: "It is a step ahead in fostering curiosity among children through fun and entertainment."
The launch of Disney Junior and Nick Jr. (Viacom 18) for pre-schoolers, points to genre sub-segmentation. Nick Jr., straddling entertainment and education, is targeted at the two-to-six-year-olds and their mothers.
Sudhanshu Vats, group CEO, Viacom 18, said: "Sonic (Viacom 18) targets six-to-17-years-old boys with action and animation. On Nick Jr, while pre-schooler programmes run between 6 am and 7 pm, after that, there is specific fare for 12-18-year-old girls. There is also a chunk of live action programmes under TeenNick on the channel."
The creation of India-specific content is the other big move in the kids TV genre. Characters such as Chhota Bheem, Kris (Roll No. 21), Mighty Raju and Kumbh Karan (Pogo and Cartoon Network) have hooked kids.
"Local programming works best," said Siddharth Jain, MD, South Asia, Turner International India.
Disney too is looking at localised content. Andrew Bird, chairman, Walt Disney International, said, "In India, we have the largest creative community outside of the US, after we acquired UTV to be Disney India. We would look at content Indians want to see." Disney channel also runs Indian adaptations of its US shows.
Kids also respond to universally popular characters. Tom and Jerry, Mickey Mouse are universal. "Kids develop stickiness over time, identify with the characters," said Jain.
Starting today, Discovery Kids will run an animated series based on the successful Transformers film series. Rahul Johri, senior VP and GM - South Asia, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, said, "Transformers Prime is a globally popular franchise that has garnered millions of fans in India."
Cartoon Network has partnered with Rovio Entertainment to bring Angry Birds Toons, an animated weekly TV series based on the popular game, Angry Birds, to India, starting March 16.
Krishna Desai, Turner International India's director programming, observed: "In animation, there is no nationality. Ben 10, Augie and Tom and Jerry are borderless. When they talk in Hindi, it does not jar - they could be from anywhere."
While Cartoon Network established the kids TV genre in India, today Pogo leads. Cartoon Network and Disney follow almost next to neck. Everyone's watching Disney carefully - it has a strong kids' legacy and a lot in its arsenal. While saying that a theme park is not currently feasible in India, Bird commented: "Here, we have many other priorities and opportunities. Our number one brand driver is the Disney channel."
While Disney has been very active on the licensing front, every kids channel is considering strengthening their pull via gaming, licensing, merchandising, and online interactivity for all their popular TV characters.