Animation does not automatically mean kiddie fare and that’s what Animax has been working very hard to establish with television rating services, databases and channel distribution services including cable, CAS/DTH/dishnet. Most of the listings club Animax with other children’s channels such as Cartoon Network and Pogo, among others.
“We’ve been fighting this battle since last year,” says Sunder Aaron, business head of Animax, PIX and AXN, part of SPE network, which has an understanding with SET in India for channel transmission. “Channel grouping is an issue and it’s taking time to change it across the board. It’s not going to be an overnight thing.” <b1>
For Animax, which is actually targeting the 15-25 years age group “from the key metros, who are global citizens and adhere to a wired, upmarket lifestyle,” there are a few reasons why being listed as a children’s channel can cause problems.
One, parents of children under 15 years may also assume that since it is an animation channel, Animax is for kids, and may subscribe to it under the CAS/DTH/dishnet coverage or not monitor their children viewing it even under the cable distribution system. A good amount of the Animax content is violent, even gory, or too complex for child viewing.
Two, from the channel’s point of view too, surely the correct viewership category listing is important for attracting the target audience as well as advertising? Aaron agrees. There has been one major breakthrough—in TAM’s categorisation, Animax has been moved out of the children’s channel category to the “Others” category. Among data listings, exchange4media.com has also registered this change.
Animax hopes that its current efforts at sharper targeting through content and channel promotions will also create greater awareness. With its position of “Animax. Be Different”, the channel is unleashing a series of events “to change perception,” says Aaron. “We have started off with better, more focused content in order to remove viewership confusion. Some programmes were dropped and the middle-of-the-day Hindi dubbed programming has been removed.”
Considering that the likes of Cartoon Network and Pogo are Hindi-dubbed and even English film distributors admit that they need to dub in Hindi and regional languages to get viewership, why did Animax do away with the Hindi dubbing? “It is a huge investment and unless the whole channel can have it, it’s pointless,” says Aaron.
Audience pull in India is being created through a series of events cutting across youth involvement in gaming, jockey-based participation, music, personality-based contests, fashion through design and modelling, and community-building events for gamers, backpackers, sports and science enthusiasts, and those interested in dating. <b2>
Animax Awards, a contest for the best animators across seven Asian countries saw its first successful round last year and will see its second in December 2007. Other initiatives include a digital lifestyle magazine show and on-air vignettes of successful individuals in unconventional careers across animation, film, music, games and design in Imagine-Nation. Some initiatives have already begun.
Animax sees itself competing with the likes of Zoom, Star Plus, ZEE Café and the latest introduction, Bindass, from UTV. All youth-oriented channels, an audience that Aaron says “is the real cherry. Money, trail-blazing, connectedness and communities are all vested with it.” This growing audience, and “a 100 per cent growth in the popularity of animae,” makes the prospects challenging and bright for Animax, he concludes.