India has only been known as an outsourcing hub for animated content for a very long time. However, the scenario has changed now, particularly in the television world. With shows like Chhota Bheem and Motu Patlu, Indian animation studios have increased domestic productions so much so that they have worked on over 1,000 TV episodes in the last couple of years.
The domestic broadcasting of animated content is growing at a healthy rate and now accounts for 30-35 percent of the revenue generated by the Indian animation segment. This number will continue to increase in the future, with a yearly growth rate expected to be around 30 percent.
Instead of licensing library content, Indian animation studios are investing in originals with the budgets for such shows doubling in the last decade.
Talking to Moneycontrol, Anish Mehta, CEO, Cosmos Maya, said, “Broadcasters are launching newer shows. There is a growth in appetite. You can see now that the lion’s share is Indian content, whereas earlier only one or two shows were broadcast.”
“When we came with Motu Patlu, there was only one show called Chhota Bheem. If you see now, there are 16 shows that we run in India, and that is just us. When we say we make this amazingly huge volume of content, we produce over 50-60 percent of the overall market share. Production wise, we reach around 60 percent. Earlier, we had around 80 percent of share but the market was much smaller. Now that the market is growing at 20 percent a year, we are growing at a minimum 40 percent a year as a studio,” he added.
With more viewers, comes more focus for the genre.
“I know the kind of investments that are lined up from all the big broadcasters,” said Mehta. Reliance is backing Viacom, and the Star-Disney merger is also happening. “Besides, OTT is one area where kids play a strong role because of the repeat consumption,” he added.
Last year, Sony launched a channel with 100 percent locally-produced animated content. Nickelodeon plans to grow its original programming to 500 hours in FY19.
Cosmos Maya, which started its journey in IP creation in 2012, this summer launched a show called Inspector Chingum and will be launching Bapu sometime in the middle of the year.
The company had a successful last year, courtesy its own IP Selfie with Bajrangi, which has a season 2 coming up for which the contract is for 78.5 hours. “This is a huge jump, in comparison to a season of a series consisting of a maximum of 26 episodes. We have crossed the threshold with a show like Bajrangi,which is like a fresh start in the (animation) space, said Mehta.
The company has also got strategic projects going on with three big networks – Disney, Nickelodeon and Turner.
Explaining how the focus on home-grown animated content has increased considerably in India, Mehta said, “If I pass the trajectory of the last seven years, we started off in 2012 with 26.5 hours of hours per year that we were delivering in the first year. Since then, there has been a consistent growth. Around 36 percent per month is only Indian content. The market has definitely grown five-fold,” said Mehta.
However, oversees remains a key market for the company and that is because “at several levels, international markets are very strategic. We are still to reach the quality where we will be matching up with oversees players becuase of their planning stage, production, budgets, timeline and storytelling.”
Last year, Indian animation services continued to gain traction among international production houses especially due to cost efficiency, which is up to 50 percent compared to other countries. In addition, animation quality has improved over the last few years. Due to the cost advantage, international studios and animation houses are increasingly utilizing services from India.
During the last few years, Indian animation studios have worked with major international players such as Disney, Warner Brothers, DreamWorks, Sony, Viacom/Nickelodeon, BBC, Cartoon Network, Fox, Ubisoft and Zynga, among others.
Technicolor India has worked on animation movies such as Penguins of Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, Mickey and the Roadster Racers, Alvin and the Chipmunks, All Hail Kind Julian, Wallykazam, Fanboy and Chumchum and Puss in Boots, among others.
While Indian content on television is seeing traction, locally produced animation films have seen lesser growth.
“Adults consume animation because the adults today are the ones who grew up with Cartoon Network in India. Professionals in India today take from mid 20’s to early 40’s. They had exposure to animated content as kids so the next generation is taking up to it a little bigger way. A couple of years down the line, we will be able to mirror American trends,” said Mehta.
There have been more misses than hits in the film’s segment for animation genre. If Chaar Sahibzaade,released in 2014, made Rs 70 crore at a budget of Rs 10 crore, then the 2012 release Arjun: The Warrior Prince raked in Rs 1.78 crore with a budget of Rs 7.50 crore.
But the genre has now more screens to bank on courtesy the digital medium.
According to the EY report, growth of digital content consumption in India created a significant opportunity for broadcasters and OTT platform providers. Animation-based content had a major share in this growth of online content consumption.
Cosmos Maya in 2016 had started a YouTube channel called WowKidz and has plans to get innovative for the mobile screen.
“We have been using it as a second screen. Although we do not use too much innovation in our content right now, yet it is definitely on the cards with the overall growth that has come our way,” said Mehta.
Mehta expects the animation industry to continue to grow at this rate. “Yardsticks indicate that it will,” he added.
“For India, what’s interesting is the Disney-Star merger with the presence of OTT platform Hotstar, which has not done anything in the kids space yet. Netflix is also consolidating in India, so there are newer opportunities coming our way,” he added.
The industry is also betting big on regional content. “Leading broadcasters are airing their content in many languages. Kids prefer to watch content in their mother tongue. I won’t be surprised if a couple of years down the line, a regional channel opens up,” said Mehta.
Discovery Kids gained a lot of traction in terms of viewership, courtesy the launch of Tamil and Telugu language feeds for its channel as part of its regional expansion plan in the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh