Prajjal Saha

There's enough room and moolah for kids channels

With the growing competition in the kids genre, localised content will be the king-maker

What's common among Animax, Splash, Space Toons, Hungama and Disney?

Well, actually lots. All of these are kids channels with somewhat similar content, either launched very recently or set to be launched soon for Indian kids.

Clearly, kids are in focus like never before. There's no doubt that the new launches have been spurred on by the success of Cartoon Network, the original kids channel for Indian kids.

It's also a given that from now on, competition is going to be fierce in this segment.

So, the issue at hand is whether the kids genre of Indian television big enough to accommodate so many channels? More importantly, will advertising in kids channels help in brand building and better sales?

Sandeep Tarkas, chief executive, Media Direction, says, "Corporates are increasingly recognising the trend that kids have become important consumers for all kinds of products - whether it's consumer durables or automobiles. These days, kids are influencing most of the purchases done by a family across age groups."

Tarkas' views are supported by a recent Synovate study on how kids influence purchases of automobiles. According to the study, 42 per cent of Indian respondents agreed that their choice of car was entirely dependent on their children's and grandchildren's wishes.

Arpita Menon, general manager, Lodestar Media, won't venture that far. She says, kids influence buying decisions in mainly products which they use, or products such as ice creams or soft drinks - which induce impulse buying.

Both Menon and Tarkas agree that there is enough space for all kids channels to grow and prosper in India.

So, a trend has been established between kids channels, corporate advertising, and revenues. But what about viewer-preference and, who will win the race among all the channels?

Indian-ising the content may perhaps hold the key to success.

For instance, Pentamedia's Splash is betting on Indianised content targeting the age group of 2-18 years. The channel claims that 40-50 per cent of its content are locally produced shows.

Likewise, another channel which is betting on Indianised content is UTV's Hungama. Purnendu Bose, COO, Hungama says, "More than 70 per cent of our shows will be locally produced and we have positioned our channel as 'for the Indian kids and by the Indian kids'." Apart from local content, the channel says that its shows would be selected by the kids themselves. This is why the channel is conducting a talent search across 10 Indian cities, out of which 20 kids will be selected as Hungama captains, who will play an important role in deciding on the content of the programme. The focus, therefore, is on India and Indian kids.

Partho Ghosh, vice president, The Media Edge, says, "The success of local productions like Shaktiman on Doordarshan proves the fact that localised content is more popular among the Indian kids. The C&S kids channels, have never tried out the concept of airing made-in-India programmes. Now that the new channels are planning Indianised content, it's certain that these will score better."

The logic is perfect, but it's not that every Indianised kids' programme has been a hit. For example, there's Chacha Chowdhury on Sahara TV, which hasn't exactly set the TVR sheets on fire.

Media planners, of course, have a different reason to explain this. Menon of Lodestar Media, says, "The success of programmes or channels depends on the programming strategy of each channel, and also how the channels are promoted." She adds, "Essentially, the channels need to create a passion among the viewers with their programming."

Despite the buzz on localised content, there are channels which continue to focus on only international programming, albeit dubbed in local languages. The yet to be launched Disney channels will probably show international cartoons. The recently launched channel Animax from the Sony bouquet has only Japanese cartoon shows among its programmes, aimed at an age group of 15-25 years.

The choice for the target audience sets Animax apart from its peer group. Till date, kids channels and programmes in India have been mainly associated with the 4-14 year age group.

Now, the million-dollar question is whether a twenty-five year old will react to a cartoon channel in the same way a school going kid does. Lodestar's Menon says, "If not 25 years, the channel would certainly excite the viewers in the age group of 15-18. And, it is also a fact, that even adults like watching cartoon shows, although they may not be part of the loyal viewers of this channels."

Evidently, there's a virtual feast for young Indians as channels try out varying permutations and combinations to attract them.

So what's the flipside, did you ask? Well, parents may have to temporarily give up ownership of the TV remote, and studies may also go for a toss for some time. But all that is a part and parcel of the growing up years. Isn't it? © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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