Namah Chawla

“Our focus is to take kids' universe outside of TV and make sure they stay with our characters”: Leena Lele Dutta, SPNI

Ahead of the upcoming summer season, Sony YAY! has released a fresh content line-up. A chat with the business head, Sony Pictures Networks India, kids’ genre.

With the onset of summers, kids’ entertainment channel Sony YAY! has announced a fresh content line-up. The channel will bring new episodes of shows like Oggy and the Cockroaches, and Obocchama - Kun.

It will also roll out two movies from the show Taarak Mehta Ka Chhota Chashmah, along with new episodes. In June, Sony YAY! will launch another new show titled Ha.Go.La, narrating the adventures of three friends, Hathgola, Goli and Latha.

In an interview with afaqs!, Leena Lele Dutta, business head, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI), kids’ genre, talks about the fresh line-up, expected viewership and ad rates for the upcoming season, impact of social media and OTT on the kids’ genre, and more.

Edited excerpts:

This summer is different from the last two ‘pandemic’ ones, as kids are now back outdoors. What impact are you expecting on viewership?

The fundamental change that kids will have from the last two summers is that now, they have access to going out and will be more active. However, I don't think that there is going to be a drop in viewership. The viewership trends for the kids’ category, pre-COVID, used to oscillate between 550 and 575 GRPs (gross rating points). When COVID-induced lockdown was imposed, the category went from 550 to 750 GRPs. There was almost a 50 per cent upswing.

"When COVID-induced lockdown was imposed, the category went from 550 to 750 GRPs. There was almost a 50 per cent upswing."

With everything opening up now, including schools and tuition classes, we are back to the pre-COVID numbers. We will definitely see an upsurge in GRPs because there will be an increased time spent at home. That’s the reason why we are strategically placing our new shows and episodes within a span of 15-20 days. So, the kids have something new to watch and keep coming back to our channel.

When compared with the lockdown seasons, will this summer see a hike or drop in ad rates, and by how much?

Our first step is to fill the inventory to ensure that ad spots are optimally utilised. Shows like Tarak Mehta Ka Chhota Chashmah and Oggy and the Cockroaches have offered us great ratings. There is no reason to not have handsome advertising rates on our channel this year. The ad market in the new fiscal is going to be very buoyant.

"There is no reason to not have handsome advertising rates on our channel this year. The ad market in the new fiscal is going to be very buoyant."

Video streaming apps and OTT platforms also offer a plethora of content for kids’ entertainment. How will Sony YAY! ensure that kids stick to TV content?

There is no other medium like TV to reach out to millions of kids at one time. And, TV is here to stay. However, the digital adaptation has also been robust in the kids’ genre. So, it is not easy for us to avoid digital play.

Instead of ensuring that kids stay on TV, our focus is to take their universe outside of TV to make sure that they stay with our characters. We have eight YouTube channels and a full-fledged plan for gaming. All our characters are adapted to the casual gaming format.

We are looking at all kids’ touchpoints across platforms. As we can’t launch a new IP or character without the might of TV viewership, it will continue to dominate our footprint. But digital and gaming amplification will also happen.

How important is the gaming genre for the kids’ category? How are you using gaming to popularise your TV shows?

Gaming is another crucial form of kids’ involvement and engagement with the character. Our entire ecosystem is going to be formed on the basis of what the character stands for and, therefore, games will be built around the characters and their nuances.

Currently, we are looking at a very casual gaming format. But because the content that Sony YAY! is bringing out is in the TG of 6-8 years, our games also have to be simple and appealing, in terms of casual gaming format.

We also offer these games to our advertisers for brand integrations. This allows us to have that elasticity to create a separate game for our clients, and have the brand’s association and branding on all integral points. We aim to introduce one game per month so that the engagement levels keep on increasing.

What part of the revenue comes from merchandising? Did this revenue dip during the pandemic?

Our endeavour is that from the time a kid wakes up in the morning, his alarm clock should be of Oggy, his compass box of Obocchama and the notebook labels should be of some other character. The character should be there in the kid's life.

The last two years have taken a beating due to COVID, as most malls and retail outlets were shut. There has been a movement of Sony YAY!’s licensing and merchandising opportunities to the e-commerce platforms.

The hit during the last two years has given us time to reflect and build a much stronger portfolio. Hotel chains, apparel, interior decor, etc., are the categories that we will be targeting this year.

In terms of the revenue percentage, it is still quite tiny. This is because we are predominantly a TV broadcaster and our main source of revenue is advertising or subscription revenue. However, going forward, a large portion of the revenues will also come from the content that we have licensed out to OTT partners. Licencing and merchandising could make about 10-15 per cent of our revenue, in future.

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