They started with bringing in their international programming in the English language for a limited kiddie audience. Till they started dubbing their programming first in Hindi and then in other languages such as Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. Kiddie and teen television channels such as Cartoon Network and Animax realised that if they wanted to attract more kids and youngsters, they had to reach out to them in local languages.
While this did help increase viewership enough to attract more broadcasters to launch kiddie channels, two major developments have followed: one, with more children looking for programming (and channels) specifically meant for them, children’s channels have started seeking out more locally relevant programming sourced from within India, to increase their appeal. Two, the channels are finding the highest viewership appeal among the four-14 years age band.
A report by Deloitte India on animation, broadcasting and gaming in the country, says that there is a growing demand for kids’ shows and the number of TV channels dedicated to kids are increasing. In 2009 itself, three channels for kids were launched. This trend is expected to continue.
Pogo, the report said, has increased its original Indian content from 50 hours in 2004 to more than 200 hours in 2009. Nickelodeon too, inspired by the success of Little Krishna, is expanding its local content. Walt Disney’s Disney Channel, Jetix and Hungama are showing around 40 per cent original Indian programmes and cartoons. Overall, across the kiddie channels, the average share of original Indian content is around 20 per cent (published reports), with mostly animation-based shows.
“Desi shows certainly work better for us, both for Pogo and Cartoon Network,” said Krishna Desai, director programming, Turner International India. "Our focus on locally-produced animation has gone up recently, a trend others will follow. Homegrown shows such as Chhota Bheem are significant contributors to performance and revenue. We have the largest Indian animation library, with over 50 titles.”
Spurred by the success of Chhota Bheem, the story of a nine-year-old boy living in the fictional town of Dholakpur, Pogo now runs more homegrown shows such as Kumbh Karan and Roll No 21. While Chhota Bheem was Pogo's first venture into local content. The other two shows are Turner's own intellectual properties and the channel is looking at creating more such desi properties on its own. Cartoon Network has a successful show based on the Amar Chitra Kathas.
In fact, existing Indian comic characters are drawing the channels’ attention. Diamond Comics has a licensing agreement with Walt Disney (India). It also plans to launch its own 24x7 cartoon channel for kids in the four-14 years age band. The company, which claims to sell four lakh print copies a month, will go for programming — in Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam and Telugu —based on its existing characters. Gulshan Rai, MD, Diamond Comics, said, “The comic business is in a very good position now. Our production quality for the channel will equal that of the foreign channels.”
Turner has tied up with ACK Media to produce and telecast one series by the end of the year or early next year. Production house Big Animation has bought the rights from the publishers of Chandamama to produce an animated TV series. Toonz Animation India is producing an animated feature film based on a Chandamama property for an estimated $4.5 million. Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap has bought the rights of Raj Comics’ popular character, Doga.
Disney, in its hunt for original TV content in India, held a contest in March this year, inviting people to participate in its Pitchkiaow event. Anyone who had an original idea for a kid’s TV show that fit with the network’s brand promise was invited to participate. There was a cash prize for the winner and a TV series, while Disney could access a lot of original programming ideas across the long form, short form, fiction and non-fiction formats.
Natasha Malhotra, VP & GM, Walt Disney Television International India, had said then: “Creativity and originality are important strategic pillars of Disney’s content strategy. This initiative is a step towards encouraging and inspiring new talent in India to showcase their creativity, original ideas and give them a strong a platform to bring it all alive.”
As many as 11 TV channels for children are vying for attention. According to the KPMG-FICCI 2010 media and entertainment report, these channels are trying to create a 360 degree communication platform by interacting with kids through websites, phones, polls and events. Activation campaigns are being run in schools, retail outlets, malls and cinemas. The channels are also merchandising their properties via apparel, stationery items and games.
The good news for the kiddie channels is the growing viewership. According to television audience measurement company TAM, between 2008 and 2009, viewers across all age bands except those in the 45-plus group, have increased, with the four-14 years group showing the biggest increase. Also between 2008 and 2009, the viewership share of kids’ TV channels has increased from 5.1 per cent in 2008 to 5.5 per cent in 2009, according to TAM.
As new media emerge, there’s every expectation that the kids’ channels will extend their properties to them. Disney has already announced its Disney Channel Mobile TV initiative via a tie-up with Apalya TV, a content aggregator for mobile TV services for Idea, Vodafone, Airtel, Aircel, BSNL, MTNL, Reliance, Docomo, Tata Indicom, Tata Photon Plus, Virgin VFlash and Reliance Net Connect.
Raju Venkataraman, GM, Disney Media Distribution India, said at the launch: “Disney Channel Mobile TV is an exciting way to create an additional touch point in one of the largest and fastest growing mobile markets in the world. With telecom players set to launch 3G services in India, mobile video streaming services promise to get bigger and more popular in the coming years.”