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With Nick at the top, Viacom18 focuses on strengthening Sonic
MUMBAI: With Nick firmly established as the leading channel for kids, Viacom18 is taking bold steps to grow its second kids channel Sonic. To facilitate the growth of the channel, the network will move its local animation franchise ‘Shiva’ from Nick to Sonic this summer.
‘Shiva’ was a runaway success for Nick contributing as much as 12% ratings to the channel’s overall viewership. By moving ‘Shiva’ to Sonic, Viacom18 hopes that the show’s loyal audience base will also move to Sonic, thereby helping it to increase its viewership share in the genre.
The network earlier moved chase comedies ‘Oggy and the Cockroaches’ and ‘Pakdam Pakdai’ to Sonic. The latter is a local chase comedy.
The idea behind building Sonic is to have two strong channels from the network, a strategy that other kids networks like Disney India and Turner International have already put in place. Turner has Pogo and Cartoon Network while Disney has Disney Channel and Hungama.
Viacom18 has four channels in its kids cluster—Nick, Sonic, Nick Jr/Teen Nick and Nick HD+. Nick features comedy while Sonic is an action comedy channel. Nick Jr caters to pre-schoolers. Nick HD+ is the HD home of all Nick characters.
“While we have four channels, we have been missing a strong second channel which others have and that’s where I see Sonic coming,” Viacom18 EVP and business head kids cluster Nina Jaipuria told TelevisionPost.com
Jaipuria expects the strategy to move ‘Shiva’ to Sonic to work well in favour of the channel as the show has a loyal base that can be cross-pollinated to Sonic.
“With ‘Shiva’, we hope to have an even bigger growth for Sonic. I expect Sonic to be a very strong second channel, something we have been missing for some time. The minute Sonic becomes a strong second contender from our portfolio, we know we have as much market share from viewership as well as from ad revenue,” she added.
To promote ‘Shiva’ on Sonic, Viacom18 will mount a mass-media campaign, which includes promoting it on other networks as well. It has also stitched a slew of partnerships with Pantaloons Junior Fashion Show across 50 outlets, Fun City gaming zones across eight cities with Shiva consoles, Van Activations in Tier II and III cities, McDonalds for their screens in 100 outlets and cinema halls.
According to Jaipuria, kids will shift to the channel where their favourite characters are. “A channel is made up of shows. At the end of the day, kids watch shows and not channels. And we have seen that when a show travels to other channel, kids travel with it,” she noted.
She is unfazed by fears of viewership cannibalisation. “Even if ‘Shiva’ moving to Sonic eats into Nick’s viewership, we will manage the top position. Ultimately, they will stay in my network. It will grow my network. ‘Shiva’ contributed 12% viewership with the limited episodes it had,” she pointed out.
What is giving Jaipuria the confidence to experiment is that ‘Motu Patlu’ and ‘Ninja Hattori’, which contribute a large chunk of the viewership, will make up for any loss in viewership due to the shift of ‘Shiva’ to Sonic. In case of Sonic, ‘Oggy and the Cockroaches’, ‘Pakdam Pakdai’ and ‘Supa Strikas’ are the top shows.
Nick will have new episodes of ‘Motu Patlu’, ‘Ninja Hattori’ and ‘Shaun the Sheep’. On Sonic, ‘Pakdam Pakdai’ and ‘Supa Strikas’ will have new episodes. Also on the anvil is the 10th ‘Motu Patlu’ movie titled ‘Motu Patlu: Double Trouble’.
“We are creating banks of episodes. We are going at a fast and furious pace of creating new episodes and new content every year,” she stated.
The focus on creating a strong second channel also stems from the fact that the kids cluster is a significant top line and bottom line contributor to Viacom18. The total revenue from kids cluster grew at 34% in FY16 while EBITDA grew 3X for two years in a year, informed Jaipuria. “We are a very profitable vertical within the Viacom18 network,” she asserted.
Strong ad sales growth
While the kids category continues to be under-indexed, it is growing at a healthy pace. The kids genre ad revenue size is pegged at Rs 425 crore (Rs 4.25 billion). “Ad sales are still under-indexed, but it’s on a right trajectory. A couple of years ago, it was barely 1% and today it is 3%. The category is expected to touch Rs 500 crore this fiscal if all goes well,” Jaipuria said.
Nick’s focus has been on growing ad rates and yield. The addition of new category of advertisers has also helped in growing ad revenue. While FMCG and consumer durables have been traditionally advertising on kids channels, new categories like e-commerce, lifestyle and automobile have also come on board.
“We have grown our rates by 40% on Nick. Two years of straight growth have helped Nick to monetise the top position. It also helped us to grow the Sonic advertising piece, because we told Nick advertisers to sample Sonic also. With Sonic, the advertisers will have the opportunity to be on a growing platform,” Jaipuria claimed.
The non-FCT piece has also grown due to the flexibility of having multiple characters. “Non-FCT is bringing a lot of value to all the three stakeholders. Advertisers are happy because we are value adding to them. Kids are happy because they see their characters and their ads, and we are able to monetise well,” she added.
The kids cluster top line has grown due to growth in ad sales, non-FCT, subscription revenue, and licensing and merchandising, Jaipuria said. The network has made significant inroads into consumer products and licensing though the base is small. The L&M has grown by 66%. The number of categories increased from 25 to 40.
The company is looking at gaps in the genre to come up with new content. “We have created ‘Motu Patlu’, ‘Pakdam Pakdai’ and now ‘Shiva’. We will launch more shows. We are working on whitespaces and doing need gaps to ensure that we have enough in the development to ensure we come up with new shows,” Jaipuria stated.
Viacom18 is growing the width and depth of its kids library. “We are not really dependent on any one character. We are also creating new episodes of ‘Ninja Hattori’,” she averred.
Viewership and audiences
Jaipuria said that almost 30–35% of kids TV viewership comes from the rural category. Boys aged 4–14 contribute 65%. Within 4–14, 4–8 and 9–14 age groups, it has equal viewership share. South India contributes 25% of all-India ratings. Nick has audio feeds in Tamil, Telugu, English and Hindi.