Anirban Roy Choudhury

Broadcasting to kids during COVID: Viewership grew manifold, but revenues dropped

Has the Coronavirus pandemic been a boon for kids genre? This was the topic of discussion on the fourth day of afaqs! 'Television Week'.

Children's programming forms about seven per cent of the total television viewership. However, the genre remains under-indexed. As per industry estimates, around Rs 600 crore of advertising money was spent on the kids broadcasters in 2019, while overall ad expenditure (adex) on TV was close to Rs 30,000 crore.

With the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, the kids, who belong to the vulnerable age group, were locked indoors. So, how do you broadcast to them when they are in an endless vacation and are not even allowed to step out? Has the pandemic been a boon for the genre?

Moderated by Sreekant Khandekar, director and co-founder of afaqs!, this was the topic of discussion on the fourth day of 'Television Week'. Nina Elavia Jaipuria, head, Hindi mass entertainment and kids TV network, Viacom18; Megha Tata, MD – South Asia, Discovery; Atit Mehta, VP, marketing, Byju's; and Mohit Joshi, MD – India, Havas Media were the panellists.

Nina Elavia Jaipuria
Nina Elavia Jaipuria

Jaipuria, in her opening remarks, said "The genre has grown by 40 per cent, in term of viewership, since the lockdowns began." She added that it was not just the kids who were watching, but the parents also sat with them, resulting in a 50 per cent growth in co-viewing.

However, this did not translate to revenues, as the previous summer vacations did. "Inventory was down by 50 per cent and the number of advertisers were down by 50 per cent," said Jaipuria. However, by the last week of August, Viacom18's kids cluster had sold 100 per cent of its inventory.

Tata echoed what Jaipuria said, and added that it is challenging to explain it to five year olds logically why they can't step out of their home, or be at a friend's place. "This has benefitted all of us in the kids broadcasting space. Discovery Kids' franchisee Little Singham saw a 95 per cent growth in consumption, when compared to the pre-COVID period."

Edutech company Byju's, one of the biggest spenders on advertising in recent times, has announced its association with Star and Disney India for its upcoming children's show 'Imagine That'. Mehta said it's one of the experiments undertaken by the company to reach the right cohort.

"We have learned the hard way that simple segmentation is just not possible on TV," he said, adding, "Our consumer is the kid, but the customer is the parent. It is important for us to communicate with both..."

Megha Tata
Megha Tata

Byju's has divided the target audience into primary, pre-primary and secondary groups, and associations like 'Imagine That' are to reach out to the first two, said Mehta.

Along with television, digital video-on-demand (VOD) platforms have also seen a spike in consumption. According to Joshi, "Television has a very different role, and that can never be taken away by the OTT."

He believes that OTT, or video streaming platforms, will make their own space and have their own advantages. "OTT can enable the advertiser to split and target a finite audience. The two have to be looked in tandem. The reality is that there is a lot of shift happening from TV to OTT and, hence, to ensure you are reaching out to both the audiences, it is important to be on both the environment."

Atit Mehta
Atit Mehta

"There is no love lost at the moment for either medium," said Mehta, adding that Byju's uses TV as it provides mass reach, and on OTT, the advertisers can narrowcast and reach out to specific cohorts.

Tata said the other reason why television will continue to remain the biggest platform is because of the limited options available on OTT. She believes the digital VOD streaming platforms will have to do a lot more to attract kids and win the gatekeeper's trust.

Jaipuria was quick to remind the panellists and the audience about Viacom18's VOOT Kids, which is a subscription-based VOD platform that streams content exclusively curated for children. "It is about being present in every platform and on every format."

Khandekar asked the panellists if there is enough brand integration happening today, where the characters showcase the use of products during the show. "I don't think it is being done enough. There is definitely room for more in the space of licensing and merchandising," replied Tata.

Mohit Joshi
Mohit Joshi

Recollecting media planning in early and mid-2000s, Joshi said it has dropped down from what it used to be back then. "With global characters and licenses, it was far more difficult to do integrations back then, yet the advertisers used to do it all the time. Now, it is the Indian IPs that are running successfully on kids channels, yet the integrations have dropped. I feel this is because there are many options available for the advertisers today to target eyeballs."

All the panellists felt that the revenues will get back on track during the upcoming festive season and winter vacations. "We are on our way to launching two new home-grown IPs. So, it is clear that despite the challenges forced by the pandemic, we aren't going to cut down on our spends on content," Jaipuria concluded.

Television Week (August 24-28, 2020) is a webinar series organised by afaqs! and sponsored by Nickelodeon.