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High on viewership, low on ad revenue: Bumpy road for kids broadcasters

During the COVID-induced national lockdowns, kids genre witnessed 44 per cent growth in TV viewership compared to the same period last year (2019), according to Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India. Normally, the genre sees growth during the summer and winter vacations, when the broadcasters release new episodes of existing shows, and also launch new intellectual properties (IPs).

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In its yearbook, the television audience measurement body (i.e., BARC) mentioned that during lockdowns, kids genre’s viewership stood at 86 billion minutes per week. It dropped to 81 billion minutes per week during the ‘unlock’ period. When compared with the same period of 2019, the genre secured a 46 per cent growth. In the last three months of the year (2020), as malls and amusement parks started to reopen, the viewership dropped to 65 billion minutes per week.

The growth has put kids genre in the fourth slot, after general entertainment, movies and news genres. The overall viewership share of kids genre grew from 6.4 per cent in 2019 to 7.4 per cent in 2020.

Vacations aren’t over
Kids genre, which primarily targets the 2-14 year olds, has had its target audience confined to their homes. Parents were working from home and handling household chores, leaving the TV remote control with the kids. However, they have now started socialising with their friends, going to classes and attending birthday parties.

Post-lockdowns, the ratings have only normalised, says Kevin Vaz, president and head – Infotainment, Kids & Regional Entertainment Channels, Star & Disney India. “We generated a gross viewership of 138,981 TVTs, which interestingly is still more than the pre-lockdown period. This year, our network has emerged as the preferred destination for kids.”

Nina Elavia Jaipuria, Head, Hindi Mass Entertainment and Kids TV Network, Viacom18, feels that this fiscal, it is unlikely that the schools will reopen for the 2-14 year olds, especially with the number of COVID cases growing again in certain parts of the country. She alludes that if the April-January period is compared with the previous year, “The category is still up by 29 per cent. This means the families are still watching the category that much more. The January-February 2021 period, when compared to the same period in 2020, is still up by 12 per cent. It is clear that the kids find comfort in watching ‘toons’, which is customised for them.”

Viacom18, which operates the Nickelodeon bouquet in India, Star and Disney India and Turner have been dishing out kids content in India, and are the market leaders. Sony Pictures Networks India entered the space with Sony YAY in 2017, and Discovery made an entry in with rebranded Discovery Kids.

“Our viewership grew more than the genre during the pandemic,” says Uttam Pal Singh, head of Discovery Kids. He is of the view that since most content comprised animation, the broadcasters managed to stick to the plan and continued releasing content, albeit at a slower pace. So, the viewership grew.

“Though not exponentially, but yes, the viewership dropped post-lockdowns. However, I see it growing again in the April-March period,” asserts Singh.

The ‘Adonomics’
While the kids genre grew and now is at 7.4 per cent of the overall TV viewership, in terms of advertising, it gets three per cent of the total ad volumes. Experts estimate that around Rs 500 crore of advertising money is being spent on the genre. The ad rates on top channels for a 10-second-slot varies from Rs 2,500 to 5,000 during the vacations.

It is still under-indexed, but growing, says Jaipuria. “When I started working in kids genre, it used to be at one per cent.” Jaipuria joined Nickelodeon back in 2006 and Nick has remained the top channel in the category since the inception of BARC India ratings in 2014. A mix of new advertisers advertising in the category and better ad rates will help the genre grow. Jaipuria informs that edutech brands are the new advertisers in the genre and a couple of them have already become “big advertisers” in the channel.

The inventory is full, as far as Discovery Kids goes, says Singh. “Today, kids are the influencers. They are the decision-makers in the family, be it choosing the colour of the car or the paint in the house. They play a big role.” As the advertisers realise the scale and frequency kids’ channels provide, the price correction will happen, Singh opines.

Brand integration can be another means to grow the genre. “In addition to conventional advertising, we are constantly looking at generating opportunities to engage with our partners. We are currently working on curating value-driven impact properties across Disney Channel and Hungama; giving brands a unique platform to reach out to kids and families alike,” informs Vaz.

“For instance, with Disney Channel, we launched ‘Imagine That’ last year. It was well-received by our partners. Three brands across different categories come on board. Now, we are looking to launch a live action show called ‘Fungama’, a large format game series which will have kids navigating through a round of obstacles and challenges.”

The local ‘tadka’
Most content consumed today in kids genre is locally grown. Even for locally grown IPs, the broadcasters have multilingual feeds. The content is dubbed in multiple languages. The kids in Karnataka can watch the ‘toon’ speaking in Kannada, while the same story has a Bangla feed for the kids in West Bengal.

“The language feeds provide scale, and helps the channel to penetrate deeper into the country,” says Singh.

“Our kids’ channels already have a very strong regional play; especially in the southern markets. In fact, Hungama has been a consistent leader in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, bringing in an average gross viewership of 15,456 TVTs and 6,603 TVTs this year,” informs Vaz.

Although it is clear that kids genre has a lot of takers in the regional markets, Jaipuria believes that it does not make sense to invest in regional channels. The general entertainment channels have segmented into different Indian languages. Kids genre, on the other hand, has stayed national with multiple audio feeds.

“Kids content has very limited geographical boundaries. I can’t think of creating more local content just for South India. From that perspective, our content is very homogeneous and cuts across all of India. Instead, I will invest in creating depth and width of local IPs,” she asserts.

Kids are now stressed over online exams and assignments. Summer vacations are just around the corner. That is when the broadcasters, with kids as their target audience, will drop in new episodes, shows, as well as movies. They (the broadcasters) say that their post-pandemic plans are not changing. Afaqs

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