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Strategic steps Disney’s kids network took in 2014

MUMBAI: 2014 has been a meaningful year for Disney India’s kids network as it consolidated the position of its flagship channel Disney Channel as well as Hungama, reinvigorated the action-oriented Disney XD through Marvel content, and expanded the distribution footprint of its preschool channel Disney Junior.

Vijay Subramaniam, VP and Head - Content and Communication, Media Networks , Disney India“In terms of milestones it has been a pretty good year for a number of reasons,” said Disney India Media Networks VP and head of content and communication Vijay Subramaniam.

Elaborating further, he said that Disney Channel consolidated its position as the mother ship through innovative content and marketing initiatives.

Disney XD, the action-oriented channel, was given a new lease of life with Marvel content which comprises almost 70 per cent of the total content.

The reach of its preschool channel Disney Junior increased from five million digital TV homes to 32 million. The expansion of Disney Junior’s reach was important as it acts as an access point for first-generation of Disney brand consumers and their mums.

Subramaniam further asserts that the Disney kids network comprising Disney Channel, Hungama, Disney XD and Disney Junior remains the go-to destination for kids.

“Each of our channels is serving a greater purpose with specific audience sets,” he stated.

As the network readied to make Disney Channel the family entertainment destination, the network realised that it was equally important to build Hungama by adding new and meaningful content.

“In addition to its distinct offering of celebrating the underlying spirit of childhood with comedy, we added a new dimension of action and adventure specifically with ‘Pokémon’ and ‘Adventures of Jackie Chan’,” Subramaniam noted.

“The move just widened the consumption palette for kids on Hungama from just being comedy to a variety of content. It took the channel to a new growth phase completely,” he added.

From January end, Disney Channel will air live-action shows during weekend prime-time to create appointment viewing for families. The seeds of the weekend live-action strategy were sown with the launch of shows like ‘Best of Luck Nikki’ and ‘The Suite Life of Karan and Kabir’.

“Considering the strategic step that we have taken for Disney channel for 2015, it was important for us to get everything in sequence,” said Subramaniam about the strategic initiatives taken by the network for Hungama, Disney XD and Disney Junior.

Captain Tiao steers Disney Channel

Talking about content initiatives, Subramaniam said that the network further strengthened its connect with viewers through ‘Captain Tiao’, a celeb talk show hosted by child artist Sadhil Kapoor.

Disney-channel-inside“We gave our audiences their own kids celebrity in Captain Tiao. The whole idea was that we have all these talk shows where adults ask the questions to the celebrities, but here it was the kid who was the anchor. Kids have their own unique perspective on the world. What we did was to represent that through Captain Tiao,” he explained.

Based on the idea of allowing kids to express themselves, the channel came up with a concept called ‘Kahaani Masters’ wherein it asked kids to come up with unique ideas which would then be created into short animation films and premiered on Disney Channel.

“Through ‘Kahaani Masters’, we told kids to come up with stories and we will make them into short-format animation content which will then premiere on the channel. We teamed up with Toonz Animation for the same,” Subramaniam said.

“At one level it is very engaging and experiential but if you look at it deeper, it is driving a set of values that we believe in,” he further said about ‘Kahaani Masters’.

It also altered the format of its annual marketing campaign ‘Jet Set Go’ in which kids and their families get an opportunity to visit Disneyland.

Unlike the previous two editions where 30 families were taken to Disneyland, the third edition saw that number getting condensed to five.

However, what was different about the campaign this time was that the five families were taken to different Disneyland-themed parks where their experiences were filmed and aired on Disney Channel in a special one-hour episode.

“This time we chose only five families rather than taking 30 families. We sent them to five different locations and we filmed their experiences and brought it on TV. The campaign encapsulates the emphasis that Disney puts on families. We had 17 million entries in the last three years,” Subramaniam averred.

The channel also stopped producing new seasons of existing live-action shows.

Hungama – unbridled fun

For Hungama, the key highlight was the launch of ‘Pokémon’ and ‘Adventures of Jackie Chan’. Pokémon, in particular, ranks #1 in total TV during its prime play slot since launch till date, claims Subramaniam.

hungama“Hungama has always been distinctive in its entertainment appeal. ‘Hungama Machaya Kya’ gave a whole new meaning to the channel. We are moving progressively from comedy to adventure to comedic adventure so there is a wide spectrum of content,” he revealed.

For Hungama, which primarily runs on Japanese anime content, the viewership is equally split between ‘Doraemon’, ‘Pokémon’, ‘Shin Chan’ and ‘Vir – The Robot Boy’, a local property.

Disney XD gets a leg up

While Disney and Hungama have a solid footing in the kids genre, Disney XD has so far been a laggard. In order to breathe some energy into the channel, the network decided to put Marvel franchises like Spiderman, Avengers and Hulk on the channel.

Disney XD“We realised that the time has come to popularise the Marvel franchise and the wonderful stories and characters that we have under the Marvel brand whether it is Spiderman, Avengers or Hulk. These are the characters that appeal to the boys,” he stated.

“So Disney XD went on to become home to Marvel content. Today 70 per cent of Disney XD’s content is from Marvel,” he added.

Disney Junior – increasing visibility

Subramaniam said that the entire thrust with Disney Junior has been to drive sampling. In order to increase its visibility, the network expanded its distribution footprint from five million to 32 million digital homes. “We are available on all digital platforms whether it is digital cable or DTH,” he pointed.

Disney-JuniorAnother way of ensuring sampling of Disney Junior, the network is premiering lead shows of the preschool channel on Disney Channel.

“We leveraged Disney Junior content on Disney Channel that gives us even larger reach. We use the preschool block on Disney Channel to premiere the lead shows from Disney Junior,” Subramaniam said.

Ad sales scene

Disney India Media Networks VP and head of revenue Nikhil Gandhi said that the kids category has seen an ad revenue growth of 8–10 per cent in 2014. Apart from FMCGs, categories such as automobile and banking also increased their exposure on kids channels.

Nikhil_Gandhi,_VP_-_Revenue,_Media_Networks,_Disney_India“We have seen new categories that are testing the water with kids category. The FMCGs have been advertising more and more on kids channels largely because they target moms and families. Secondly, we have seen the advent of new categories like automobile. We have also seen the advent of banking clients, especially those who have policies for kids. Clearly, it’s not targeting the kids but the moms,” Gandhi stated.

The ad cap did not have any impact on the kids network as it was well within the 12-minute range. “From a network point of view, we were already at 12 minute; sometimes we even go down to 11 minutes. From sanity point of view, we made sure that we didn’t intrude too much into viewership,” Gandhi added.

He also claimed that Hungama saw 25 per cent growth in ad revenue on the back of its performance.

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