"I fail to manage my daughter when it comes to watching television. She treats Doraemon and Shin Chan as her best friends and I need to compromise with my viewing of other general entertainment channels," said Vineet Sinha, father of a four-year-old.
In India, where most television homes are single TV ones, kiddie pester power to control the remote has gained in the recent years as children have migrated in larger numbers from other channels to those that target them specifically with an increasing platter of content. The number of such channels too, have increased.
In the early 2000s, there was only Cartoon Network for kids in India, showing content made for Western markets such as Tom & Jerry, Sylvester & Tweety, Popeye, Scooby Doo and Dexter Laboratories. By 2005, there were seven kids' channels including Nickelodeon, Toon Disney and Pogo. Today, three are 12 kids' channels and according to TAM Media Research, there has been an 85% spike in programme numbers on them since 2001.
It's interesting to also note that the leading programmes (by viewership) on kids' channels have begun to include shows such as Chhota Bheem and My Friend Ganesha. Kids' channels are seeing an expansion in original Indian content - popular mythological characters such as Hanuman, Krishna and Karna have been covered. "We are happy to see that our kids can learn our mythology and culture through entertainment," Sinha observed.
Pogo has increased its original Indian content from 50 hours in 2004 to more than 200 hours in 2009. Similarly, Nickelodeon, inspired by the success of Little Krishna, is looking to expand its local content. Other channels are expected to follow the same trend, said Santosh Sood, an independent media consultant and former CEO, Rediffusion Y&R.
According to industry experts, the good news also is that the cultural mindset that animation is meant for kids only is changing in India. A Deloitte-Assocham study indicates that the percentage viewership of kids' channels in 2009 saw a substantial viewership in the 14-years-plus age group. Almost 30-35% viewers across Cartoon Network and Pogo have been found to be in the 15-years-plus age group.
Santosh Desai, MD, Future Brands, said, "The kids' genre is strongly gaining teeth and muscles to score over infotainment, music and second-line mass channels."
The kids' channels are also making every effort to create stickiness by extending their characters beyond the shows to interactive initiatives, to create engagement with kids. Toon Cricket, an initiative by Cartoon Network, and online innovations such as HP Toon Creator Awards, the offer by Cartoon Network on Ben 10's contest to star in a Ben 10 movie, are examples.
"Mass customisation continues to be the underlining mantra for the segment with more personalised ways to reach the target audience. It is all about delivering innovative solutions that address brand, marketing objectives and revenue maximisation," said Monica Tata, GM, entertainment networks, Turner International India (the group that engages in sales and marketing of Cartoon Network and Pogo in India).
Licensing and merchandising activities for the kids' channels' characters are also taking the programmes beyond television sets. Nickelodeon has already launched over 500 products in the market and expects multifold growth in it.
"Cartoon Network Enterprises has witnessed 40% category growth over last year and our products are now available in over 5,300 retail stores across India," said Tata.
With rising viewership, the share of FCT (free commercial time) for kids' channels has also zoomed from a puny 0.7% in 2003 to an impressive 6.3% of the total FCT pie.
There has been a substantial growth in advertising time. "The genre is said to be niche but it delivers over 500 GRPs (gross rating points, a total of programme ratings) every week in comparison to the industry average of 200 GRPs," said Nina Elavia Jaipuria, executive VP, Nickelodeon.
"Advertisement revenues on kids' channels are definitely growing. Cartoon Network, for example, is showing a clear ability to charge premium rates and is among the highest priced niche channels," a media buyer from Madison India, on condition of anonymity, said.
With the expansion in audiences watching kids' channels - not just teens but also parents or adults, with their kids - advertising too is not restricted to child-related products and services. So beyond the expected toys, foods and drinks for kids, stationery, apparel and the likes, there is an increasing flow of ads on products such as toilet cleaners, tiles, surgical products, thermoware, lighting products and antiseptic creams. Plus, everyone acknowledges the importance of the growing role of kids as purchase influencers across product categories that have nothing to do with them directly.
"The non- kids' product category advertising on kids' channels is growing by over 40% (annually) due to the surging co-viewership where parents accompany children in watching," Jaipuria said.
According to Natasha Malhotra, VP, Walt Disney Television International (India), the network comprising Disney Channel, Disney XD and Hungama TV, this has been an extraordinary year. "The network has witnessed over 30% growth (YoY) since October 2010. We are extremely upbeat about the coming year, powered by the growing popularity of our classic and contemporary characters and stories, and our on-going momentum with mothers and families."