Localisation is key for content to resonate with kids, say panellists at Pixels 2020

MUMBAI: Localisation is key for content to resonate with kids as 7 of the top 10 shows in this genre are homegrown. The kids genre bounced back relatively quickly after the implementation of new tariff order (NTO) 1.0 compared to some of the other genres.

The kids category contributes to 20% of TV viewership and the time spent is the highest. The genre has given rise to the concept of ‘Strangely Satisfying Viewership’. For instance, kids find a video of a cake being cut into equal parts strangely satisfying. This is something that digital can offer that TV will never experiment with.

These were some of the points that came out during a session at IAMAI’s conference Pixels 2020.

The session was called ‘Trend Alert – Children’s Content’. It was moderated by Artha Animation CEO Gaurav Malhotra. The speakers were Voot Kids business head Sugato Bhowmik, Sony YAY! head – marketing and on-air promotions Sujoy Roy Bardhan, TotallyAwesome country director Kunal Mukherjee, Cartoon Network and Pogo, South Asia Senior Director and Network Head Abhishek Dutta and Discovery India head Discovery Kids Uttam Pal Singh.

Both Bardhan and Singh noted that localisation has been central to their content strategy. Bardhan noted that all the shows were storyboarded in-house and then the channel reached out to production companies.

For Dutta, localisation happens on multiple levels in terms of story, background, and setup. Without localisation it is difficult to resonate with kids he warned. He said that going forward Pogo will have over 200 hours of fresh content for the Summer. He prefers viewership coming from different kinds of audiences rather than from only one kind. That, he feels, makes a channel more robust.

Singh noted that till a few years ago, Discovery Kids did not focus much on localisation. Now the strategy is to do IPs with a long cycle having many episodes. When one looks to local shows four genres work – slice of life, slapstick humour, action and now Bollywood. These can be divided into sub-genres.

For instance, slapstick humour can be verbal and non-verbal. The fact is that since there is already so much local content one has to think about what it is that will connect with kids. The aim is to have content with mass appeal rather than create it for just one region.

The panelists noted that the kids category was earlier dominated by international content. However, things started to change with ‘Chhota Bheem’. If experimentation had not happened over the years the kids category would not have been as big in terms of viewership as it is today. One issue is seeing how content creators address the future needs of viewers. So now Barbie movies are being made.

At the session, it was also noted that while television is the lead medium children can consume those shows on digital and that afford them the opportunity sample other offerings.

Bhowmik noted that digital offers underrepresented genres on television the chance to be consumed such as preschool and edutainment. He also noted the importance of a safe environment which is why Viacom18 decided to create a separate app for Voot Kids which is independent of Voot. He said that television has a push mode while Voot Kids has a pull model. What is helping digital is that a home can have five mobile devices. So kids will have a dedicated platform for them to consume content. Digital allows for micro segmentation. This is the shortcoming of television where most homes are still single TV.

The kind of content consumed on television and digital audiences for the kids genre is not that different. It was stressed at the session that digital is not impacting TV viewership. In fact overall consumption for the genre has grown. Once kids love a character on television they will use digital platforms to engage with that character in a variety of ways.

One advantage of digital is that you know how much preschool for instance is being consumed. On TV, BARC has limitations as it does not offer viewership cuts. It was noted that since kids want immediate gratification content has to be served up immediately. On digital as the load time for content goes down engagement goes up.

Bhowmik said that on digital one can experiment fail fast and start up again. The format is more important than genre. Voot Kids has books and rhymes after listening to parents. If you give parents what they want for their kids then you can do well in terms of subscription revenue.

In terms of learnings, Dutta noted that the amount of live-action content in the genre has gone down considerably. Also content cannot be preachy as kids want to be entertained. He said that if a production house is pitching a concept it has to make sure that the character is fully fleshed out. The character is the most important thing. One has to be clear on the age, gender and genre of the show.

Singh noted that the distribution strategy ensured that the kids genre bounced back relatively quickly. The Summer last year also helped as kids were asking for the channels. He also said that since channels are focusing on local content there is a huge ecosystem that needs talented artistes and animation talent. Each of the top 7 local IPs employs 500-700 artistes.

The industry has to see how it can get in the right talent and groom it so that it can handle the load of broadcasters. From a P&L perspective the task is risking out limited dollars in the right manner.

He pointed out that kids are not just watching animation and cartoons. They also watch GEC shows, movies, talent shows with their parents. “I think that those genres in the kids environment are still to be opened up. This is something to look forward to in the future,” Singh stated.

He also noted that a long term vision is important. It cannot be that a broadcaster gets impatient after just three episodes. In the session it was noted that movies and talent shows are whitespaces in this genre that should be explored. For him the key to success lies in creating endearing characters.

Hanging out with kids and following the conversation is important and that is something that he does. A balance is needed between exploring newer IPs and IP extensions. Newer IPs aim to fill a gap in the genre. But IP extensions are also crucial for a channel like Sony YAY!. So for ‘Honey Bunny’ a digital extension has been created. “It is a new show on its own. What you are building on is something that you have already created” he explained.

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