Interestingly, while the Indian kids' broadcast industry's revenue stream continues to be suppressed by its niche perception baggage, it has not stopped national and international players from foraying into the space.
Come mid-2014, the kids' space will witness the launch of yet another international player to further fragment its Rs 530 crore (approximate) market. The edutainment channel from the Da Vinci MediaGmbH stable will be called 'Da Vinci Learning'. Targeted at the 6-12 year olds and their parents, the channel aims at offering programming and content that makes "astounding scientific ideas understandable, arouse curiosity, spark conversation and motivate viewers to continue uncovering the mysteries of the universe."
The company has submitted physical licence application to the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB). The channel will invest at least Rs 5 crore, which is the minimum network requirement and is mandatory for a broadcast licence.
Ferdinand Habsburg, founder and CEO of Da Vinci Media GmbH, tells afaqs!, "I don't see any channel that serves that market with programming where you can watch TV together with your family of parents and 6-12 year old kids and learn something, may be about the laws of gravity, history of India, pyramids and many things that exist or don't exist."
But having said that, Habsburg adds, "If a sophisticated broadcast company like ZEEL is going into the space of education and entertainment, they would have done their research just as we have done. That for me is an indicator that this segment of the television is under serviced. If we look at the size of the Indian TV market, there are numbers of channels and I am sure there must be a space of educational channels if there is such a consumer demand on the other side. I am not concerned, on the contrary I'm delighted that ZeeQ is existing."
When asked why now, Habsburg counter-questions, why not now? "The time is good. Digitisation is evolving and I think a pay TV model like we have in other countries is evolving and it's not going to happen overnight but the speed of digitisation of the MSOs over the last 18 months has been amazing. Digitisation is meant for pay TV environment and there is demand for further high quality content and more specialised channels. I feel quite confident about the timing. The Indian television market is exciting."
To stream through MEASAT satellite, the channel will initially have English feed. In case the company feels that it needs feeds of any other language, it might consider it. While the majority of the international shows of Da Vinci Learning will be served to Indian audiences, the channel also aims to launch with a few locally produced shows. The content will be a mix of animation and live action.
Talking about localisation for Indian viewers, Mohit Anand, country manager, India, Da Vinci Learning, says, "In terms of language, we have the capability in the organisation to localise but it depends on the need. Newton's law is a law and if you are doing it in a fun education way, people will watch it. Who would want to learn it in Tamil if he is already learning that in school in English? So we have to find a right balance. There will also be content built and made for India."
Da Vinci Learning will work on a payTV model and will be provided on the digital platform only. The company is already in talks with the DTH providers and MSOs in India that provide digital feed. The marketing for the channel will focus on creating visibility for the brand, desire for the content in places where the channel is available.
According to Anand, the kids' channels work on word of mouth publicity. Additionally, the channel will do whatever is required to ensure that the brand is there where the families and kids are together. "If you look at it thereby, mostly they are together at zoos, museums, places where there is fun stuff for kids. That is what is our intention and therefore on-ground will become a significant piece of our marketing strategy."
The ad sales for the channel will be driven by the fact that the company believes the channel will not only be watched by kids but also the parents.
While Habsburg refuses to reveal when the company is targeting break even in India, he says, "We look at other channel entries and know that one has to be patient. India is not a quick return on investment country, that's pretty sure! In the Indian market, you have to invest, you have to do your product properly and it's not a short term thing."
The company's syndicated qualitative research in India, covering four cities - New Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow and Hyderabad - revealed that the local content did not emerge as a preference; viewers preferred Hindi voiceover or English subtitles so that they could comprehend better and no cultural issues emerged. The sampled audience liked the visual presentation and programme packaging. Presentation of science in a simplified manner and explained through interesting narrative was also liked. However, the English accent and fast paced nature of narrative made comprehension difficult for some viewers.
The group also runs a channel called Da Vinci U that consists of university lectures. "It's not only for students but people who like hearing lectures. We will launch Da Vinci U too in India, sooner or later but we have our hands full with our flagship channel launch."
The channel has been named after Leonardo Da Vinci as he was an artist and scientist at the same time, and the company believes in transferring knowledge in an artistic way.
Founded in 2007, Da Vinci Learning is a part of Berlin-based Da Vinci Media GmbH. Serving 29 countries around the world, Da Vinci Learning's local adaptations of its programming are setting new standards for quality and bringing a world of discovery closer than ever before.