Along with Taarak, the kidcaster plans to launch a total of 10 shows in FY22; eyes a top-five spot
In April 2017, leading media conglomerate Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) announced the launch of Sony Yay!, a children's channel. Before that, SPNI distributed Japanese channel Animax with very little or no control over the content.
So, in a way, it was SPNI's entry into children's broadcasting. The network decided to take on the likes of 'Shinchan', 'Doraemon', 'Chhota Bheem' and 'Motu Patlu' with new original 'home-grown' shows. The channel is now celebrating its fourth anniversary. To mark the occasion, it has announced 'Taarak Mehta KKa Chhota Chashmah' ('TMKCC'), an animated version of the superhit SAB TV show 'Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah' ('TMKOC').
Produced by Asit Kumarr Modi's Neela Telefilms, 'TMKOC' was launched in July 2008 and has aired more than 3,000 episodes. Modi got the idea of the show from Gujarati humorist Taraak Mehta's weekly column 'Duniya Ne Undha Chasma', which was published in Gujarati magazine Chitralekha.
With the animated version, the challenges are different, says Leena Lele Dutta, EVP and business head – kids, SPNI. Retaining the authenticity of the characters and yet making it palatable for the kids was a challenge.
Dutta says it was during COVID-induced lockdowns that co-viewing, as a phenomenon, got highlighted. "Both the parents and kids were watching together."
"It has always been my dream to have an animated version of the show," says Modi. He reveals that the show is being jointly executed by Neela Telefilms and SPNI, where the latter is taking care of the production, while Modi and Co. are handling the creative storytelling.
"In India, we have always treated animation as a concept limited to the kids. With the version of Taarak Mehta, I feel that animation will now cut across all age group. If that happens, I will consider it an achievement," adds Modi.
Viacom18, which operates Nickelodeon bouquet of channels in India, teamed up with Lotpot, a Hindi comic magazine, to release 'Motu Patlu'. Industry experts feel that was the turning point for kids broadcasting in India. Earlier, the dubbed version of international toons used to rule the charts. Now, home-grown animated content dominates the space.
While 'TMKOC' is an extremely popular show, the decision to adapt it for the kids was strategic, says Dutta. The show reaches out to 22.7 per cent of the children's population in India, making it an immensely popular show when compared with the top shows in the category.
Sony Yay! will launch 'TMKCC' with around 30 episodes. In the children's genre, the content has huge archival value and, therefore, unlike the shows on general entertainment channels (GECs), the cost is covered in multiple years.
'TMKCC' will retain the iconic characters like Dayaben, Jethaalal, Bapuji and Tapu. The characters will be seen in a new avatar in the world of animation. However, monetisation will remain a challenge for the broadcaster, feel media planning experts.
"Just because it is Taarak Mehta, it will get some initial advantage. The brands would like to associate themselves with the show... They may want the characters to use their products during the show, and those would be high-value deals. But ultimately, it is the performance that will determine the return on investment," shares a media planner on condition of anonymity.
Colgate has associated with the show as the title sponsor and Dutta informs that many advertisers, who are not regular buyers of children's programming, have also shown their interest. She is upbeat about the monetisation possibilities. She opines that such shows play a pivotal role in the penetration of the channel, which drives subscription revenues.
In the GEC genre, SAB TV holds the second position among the top channels in the urban market. The biggest driver for SAB TV is 'TMKOC'. Sony Yay! is not even among the top five channels in the children's genre. Nick leads it, followed by Sonic, Hungama, Pogo, and Disney. Dutta wants Sony Yay! to be in the top five consistently.
So, will Taarak Mehta do to Sony Yay! what it has been doing for SAB TV for more than 3,000 episodes? Dutta is planning to launch at least 10 shows in the current fiscal, but all eyes will be on the tent-pole property Taarak Mehta, especially when the kids are likely to stay indoors for the most part of the year due to COVID.