Sohini Sen

TV.NXT 2014: The Importance of Being Relevant to Kids of all Ages

What are the challengs the kids genre faces? How do kids' channels monetise? And how do they handle criticism? A panel dicussion.

A seven per cent share in all television viewership is quite healthy. And kids' channels in India must be happy with with that slice of cake. With children controlling the remote in most households, it is not surprising that the genre commands a better share than sports and is almost at par with news. TV.NXT dug deep to find out why, in spite of year on year growth, the genre has not been able to attract advertisers like mainstream genres.

Sharing their experiences and knowledge on stage were Krishna Desai, executive director & network head - kids, south Asia, Turner International India; Nina Elavia Jaipuria, executive vice president - Viacom 18 Media, business head - kids cluster and Myleeta Aga, senior vice president & general manager India and content head Asia, BBC Worldwide. Anchoring the session was Shailesh Kapoor, CEO, Ormax Media.

TV.NXT 2014: The Importance of Being Relevant to Kids of all Ages

Jaipuria started the discussion with the simple question of asking if the genre delivers. According to her experience, in spite of the fragmentation, kids keep coming back to the genre because it is the only one which lets them travel to a world of fantasy. However, the kid's genre commands only 2 per cent of the total advertising pie, which shows just how under-monetised the genre is. The way ahead is to invest in the genre, but as of now, she feels they are falling short of this.

While agreeing with Jaipuria, Desai pointed out that it is also important to produce local content that is relevant at the grassroots. The local shows produced here also have to be viable for the parties involved - broadcasters and producers.

Myleeta Aga reasoned that though syndication is a safer route for content creation, it does not have a lot of upside. She said that for BBC, the kid's genre is significant. Aga also pointed out that since most children watch TV with their parents - or at least their mothers - if the content produced can create a level of comfort between the parent and child, it can positively affect ad revenues as well. "We must remember that we are not in the business of commodities. Kids' channels are about relationships. While taking advertisers, the value a brand brings to the table has to be looked at. But the whole ethos of what a brand is or what is real value has eroded," lamented Desai.

Jaipuria suggested that broadcasters will have to look outside to see how best to monetise the genre. Merchandising and creating live events are some of the ways she suggested. In her opinion, ad rates and average revenue per user (ARPU) must also increase for the healthy growth of the genre.

At this point, Kapoor brought out a pertinent point that while there are channels for kids and channels for grown-ups, no-one addresses the transitioning phase from kids to youth. Moreover, a lot of channels bask in the glory of one or two shows, piggybacking on its success.

Jaipuria explained that kids are entering and also exiting genre segments at a fast pace. The aspirational value works for kids as well, where the younger of two siblings would want to watch what the older one watches. This has led to Nick Jr's five hours worth of pre-school content being slashed down to half an hour presently. At the same time, Nick's bouquet of channels such as Nick Jr, Sonic and Comedy have something for each of the pre-school to tween categories. Jaipuria credited digitisation for making it simpler by keeping the entry cost low. She went on to describe how a child bonds with a character and the hidden prospect of great merchandising.

However, according to her, "Kids lose interest within 60 seconds. If you don't have them, you lose them." Taking off from this point, Aga added that the pre-school years are the best years to get loyal followers. It is also a good time for advertisers to find takers since mothers usually sit with their children to watch the shows. A trust vote from the gatekeeper goes a long way to building up the brand. She also added that it was too risky to keep out any viewer from prime time viewership. Even for a Jhalak Dikhla Jaa, kids make up a good portion of the viewership.

Sportingly taking questions from the audience, the panel defended the content in the genre. While they agreed that the language or content might be a bit unsuitable at times, it is a reflection of the society. And they invited parents to curate and control what his or her child watches on TV.

Aga brought up a pertinent point by saying, "All our kids are growing up fast and they are growing up with multiple devices. Video games or online content - where violence and profane language is sometimes encouraged - is not being controlled by the parents." The panel agreed that while they are trying to be relevant to kids of all ages, they also want to be available in whichever device kids use. However, they see the movement to digital screens slower than that of other genres.

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