The real and virtual world divide is getting blurred for kids in India. This is evident from various independent studies, including Cartoon Network's (CN) patented research study on kids' lifestyle, New Generation 2009, which reveals that while only 2 per cent of kids had access to the Internet 10 years ago, today, 8 per cent of kids have access to the medium.
Moreover, the latest report on media by KPMG-FICCI says that the Internet is the fastest growing medium and the growth rate of the medium during 2009-13 is pegged at 27.9 per cent. With the medium showing tremendous potential for growth - how active are the kids' channels in the digital space? What initiatives are they taking to engage the tech-savvy next generation?
"The web medium supplements and reaffirms our television offering and provides a great value addition, including a more engaging and interactive platform for CN's and Pogo's brand experience beyond the television," says Benjamin Grubbs, regional director, interactive, Turner Entertainment Networks Asia Inc.
He shares some interesting figures to showcase the all pervasive engagement of kids with the Internet.
About 49 per cent of the kids aged 7-14 years have used a computer in the past one month, and 15 per cent have surfed the Internet in the past one month, while in 2008, it was just 10 per cent. 52 per cent of the kids in the age group of 7-14 years who surf the Internet listed playing online games as their favourite activity! Being socially active in the online domain, 19 per cent of the kids who surf the Internet claim to have made a friend on the Internet whom they have never met in real life.
Turner claims to have been making larger investments in the online platform since 2007, and has brought in new content and services to users in the Indian market in 2009, including initiatives such as Game Creator and Toon Creator (an innovative online platform powered by CN and Hewlett Packard that invites kids to create their own toons).
Grubbs informs that www.cartoonnetwork.com gets more than 8.5 million page views per month, with 6,61,000 unique users. Pogo's website, www.pogo.tv, gets more than 8,31,000 page views per month, with 88,000 unique users.
For kids' channels, the website serves as the gateway to harness the interactive, engaging and personal connect offered by the Internet. Jaipuria shares that Nick's website, with six lakh page views, has about 72,000 unique visitors. Average time spent on the website by a kid is about 12 minutes.
With kids' programming primarily based on animation, cartoons and activity-based live action, the Internet is the perfect medium to deliver this content, repackaged as games, applications and videos on demand. The kids' channels, including CN, Pogo, Nick, Disney, Hungama and Jetix, keep kids hooked by offering games, video on demand, wall papers, e-cards and message boards.
For example, Nick's latest initiative, Let's Just Play, aimed at imbibing 'active play' in the lifestyle of kids, allows kids to play wherever they are and pledge their participation to the movement by logging on to the website, www.nickindia.com. The channel has also asked the kids to send in their pictures and videos of them playing, a few of which will be put on air.
On the CN website, kids can express their creativity via the special My Studio application, which enables the creation of user generated content, using CN's assets to create their own animated story. With extra gaming functions added, friends can challenge each other in multiplayer games. Users can also talk to each other about their favourite toons and topics that matter to them on the message boards and blogs available on the website.
CN has presences on Facebook, Twitter and Bebo. In fact, it has rolled out social media marketing for its upcoming movie, Ben 10 Alien Swarm, to be premiered on November 28 on Cartoon Network. Others, including Nick and multiplex channels from Disney, shy away from social media networks as they wish to cater to kids in a safe environment with filters and gatekeepers in place, which they find missing in the social media space that attracts kids aged upwards of 12-14 years.
The brand study on kids by Disney, titled KidSense, proves that over the years, digiplay (new media engagement) is equated with physiplay and the line between the two is blurring fast. Keeping this in mind, Disney for one produces content that can be translated across platforms. Various applications on the website serve to enhance the television viewing experience of the kids by translating it into a community experience as they can express and exchange their views on the website.
Disney regularly promotes one or the other of its iconic characters heavily through the website. To promote a new season of Hannah Montana, it created a microsite where kids could come and give a new look to their pop star icon. Prabhu shares that with an eye on online and offline integration of the content, they took this initiative beyond TV and the website by bringing it on ground, giving it a more personal touch.
According to Iyengar, the overall page views of www.disney.in, www.hungamatv.com and www.jetixtv.in stand at 7.5 million as recently as last month. The channel websites claim to have as many as 3.5 million unique visitors.
The kids' channels promote their websites heavily by mentioning them in on-air promotions and other on-ground initiatives. All communication campaigns spanning across TV and print prominently highlight the website offerings of the channels.