‘Our gameplan is to maximise market and revenue share’
After conquering the number 1 position in kids genre, Viacom18 is now aiming to be the largest kids TV network in the country. It has displaced Turner to become the number 2 kids network. The next target is to go past Disney by growing the market share of Nick and Sonic.
Nick is planning to grow its original programming to 500 hours in FY19. The kids broadcaster is entering a new genre of magic-comedy with its new IP ‘Rudra – Boom Chik Chik Boom’. Additionally, the broadcaster is also looking at Bengali and Kannada regional feeds.
TelevisionPost.com’s Ashwin Pinto caught up with Viacom18 business head kids cluster Nina Elavia Jaipuria to talk about Nick’s journey so far and the plans going ahead.
What is Viacom18’s gameplan to grow the kids portfolio this year?
We have overtaken Turner India (Pogo and Cartoon Network) as a network. The aim now is to go past Disney India (Disney Channel, Hungama, Disney XD and Disney Junior) and make sure that we become the number one kids network in the country. The gameplan is to maximise the market and revenue share.
We want to make sure that we have enough width and depth of content to make sure that more and more viewers sample us and stay with us more importantly. We are rolling out our fifth IP and creating not just a few episodes but over 350 hours of content that will help us gain viewership and the love of children.
From a P&L perspective, how is the kids cluster faring and what is the challenge?
Over the past three years, our profit has increased nine-fold. We always want a double-digit topline growth and also improve the EBITDA margins. We want to be as profitable as ever and we have been so for many years. The P&L perspective is to also reinvest into IPs. The P&L facilitates a growth in topline, content costs and profitability.
How difficult was the last year for your kids network?
It was very difficult. We did have GST headwinds. Advertisers had kind of taken a backseat when GST kicked-in and we had a tough quarter where we had not done very well. But we had a good summer before GST which helped in mitigating the headwinds from GST.
Then we launched a new IP with ‘Gattu Battu’ which led to an increase in viewer engagement. We had the Kids Choice Awards, various campaigns, and school contact programmes. This helped us mitigate the effects of GST and get a good topline growth.
Could you talk about your local content journey?
Until 2012, Nickelodeon didn’t have any local IP. We wanted to be different and we took the risk in 2012 with a show made from a comic book that did not have a kids protagonist. At that time, the trend was to run a show with just 26 episodes as kids love repeats. However, we decided to create volume. The challenge at that time was that kids wanted the tried and tested. So launching a new show back in 2012 was more difficult compared to now.
In 2013, we did a chase comedy Pakdam Pakdai. This genre is a tough nut and is very difficult to crack. We felt that if Tom and Jerry can do it then why can’t we? We came up with action adventure show ‘Shiva’ in 2015. The show broke the rules by entering the top three in the opening week. In 2017, we again entered a new genre with detective comedy ‘Gattu Battu’.
To do animation you have to commit a certain level of investment. You have to put your money where your mouth is.
What have you learnt from the success of shows like Motu Patlu and Shiva?
We have learnt three things from local IPs. Identify gaps in the market, create characters and shows that are endearing to kids, and the quality of animation and dubbing has to be top-notch.
How did your new IP ‘Rudra – Boom Chik Chik Boom’ come about?
The magic comedy was a whitespace that we identified. We are working with Greengold Animation for the first time. The show took 15 months for us to put together. We did research in five markets – Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Lucknow, and Ahmedabad. The participants got so involved with the show that they wanted to be a part of it. We are hoping that Rudra will have the same impact that Shiva did.
Before giving a show the go-ahead what kind of research do you do?
Research is an ongoing activity for us. It is not necessary that we do research before an IP launch. We do a KidsScan with IMRB which is about kids lifestyle. We do regular research just to figure out the pulse of the children. It tells us what are the trends, the fads, what are the phases, what has been relevant and contemporary to kids.
We also do a biannual study with Ormax which talks about small wonders. It tells us why are characters working, what do kids look for, why some characters are better than others. What are the games kids play? What books do they read? Then, of course, the last research we do is after creating a pilot we go out and test the pilot. A lot of research goes on that backs our gut and hypothesis. Some of it gets validated. It is important to have the pulse of the child because it is the most dynamic of target groups if you ask me.
Has the quality of animation being done by Indian studios improved?
It certainly has. If you look at our content you will realise that the quality of animation and dubbing has improved. We have actually staged a turnaround story for the animation industry by investing so much in local IP. Today, the local animation industry can work on content from scratch to finish. Earlier they were outsourcers today they have the ability to create a product from scratch to the end. They have grown in capacity. Our entire local content of 350 hours is Made in India.
Do you retain IP rights of shows?
Yes! We retained the IP rights of ‘Motu Patlu’ for India while Cosmos Maya has the international rights. But the original owners of ‘Motu Patlu’ will always be Lotpot. Our strategy was to take the character out of a comic book and put it into an animation show. I have the IP of the show for everything in India. After ‘Motu Patlu’, we own the IP for all the new shows.
What is the split between original and acquired content?
For Nickelodeon, the tables turned completely. Almost 80-90% of content is local. On Sonic, we are inching there but right now it is almost 65:35.
How are you scaling up IPs?
We scale them up by taking them beyond broadcast. We take the engagement to a very different level. Whether it is through digital games where you can actually run a marathon with ‘Shiva’ or you can play cricket with Ninja or you can play football with ‘Motu Patlu’ it is about creating digital assets and games that take the engagement level to a different level.
It is also about taking IPs into consumer products. We have over 45 categories from apparel to toys to books. It is about taking engagement to a level where we do movies. We have done one theatrical movie and we hopefully will do another one in the coming years. It is about taking the audience form the small screen to a silver screen and that is a different kind of engagement. It is about taking a character and creating an ecosystem around the franchise and the IP that makes it larger than life.
We give it a whole lot of surround sound whether it is Kidzania where Nickelodeon has a TV studio, whether it is digital games, whether it is consumer products or even product licensing. Our shows have been licensed in markets like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Nepal.
With all this surround sound, do you see the non-broadcast revenue contribution growing beyond 10%?
Yes! Our non-broadcast revenue is now 10% of the topline. Earlier, it was never at 10% rather it was much less than that. Over the years it has grown and it will only grow.
To what extent have content costs risen?
It has gone up in a huge way. Ever since we started creating local IPs, the animation industry has realised that there are a lot more takers now. It is a supply/demand issue and if you ask me from six years to now the cost has more than doubled. However, the shelf life justifies the cost. No matter how much I pay today it will give me viewership in the future also. Under indexation has become better. Our ad rates have grown over a period of time. We have also made efforts to go beyond just vanilla ad spots.
Has the delivery time for an animation show come down?
It still takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of time to conceptualise, write, draw, create assets, and design a character.
Does live action content have potential?
No! It has little repetition value. The ROI and shelf life is very limited. There is enough live action out there in other genres. Why would kids come to my channel for live action? Live action cannot transport kids to an imaginary world.
Does it make sense for Nick to do an edutainment show?
It works for a younger TG which is preschool. Nickelodeon delivers to 5-6+ years audience. For edutainment, we have to look for a younger audience. At a point in time, we will look at local edutainment content. Today, Nick Junior has fantastically researched, beautiful international preschool content. There is so much there.
BARC India study shows that over 80% of kids viewing does not happen in the kids genre. Is this due to single TV homes?
India is a single TV home market. Only 3% of homes have more than one TV. Even in the Metros, it is only 5%. So the remote moves from mother to father to kids. There is co-viewership happening but the opposite is also happening where even the kids channel is being watched by a lot of adults.
Therefore, we have a lot of non-traditional advertisers on the channel. Categories like consumer durables, e-commerce with Amazon, Flipkart have come in. Kids watch other channels but parents also watch us.
Could you talk about the plans to have more language feeds?
We are examining the South market. We are considering Kannada and Bengali feeds. For the Hindi Speaking Market (HSM), we believe Hindi is sufficient. We are looking at language potentials where we believe that there could be a very large potential audience that gives us a lot more viewership. It is also about making sure that the language does not alienate the child. It is also about delivering content in a language that children are comfortable with.
What role does English have to play?
For Nickelodeon, we are a mass all India urban and rural channel. People watch English on OTT or online and not so much on the kids genre. Having said that Nick Junior delivers content in English like ‘Peppa Pig’, ‘Dora’, Paw Patrol’ and gives kids the chance to learn English and therefore it is aspirational in that sense. HD has a lot more English content with properties like ‘Kung Fu Panda’.
Have the expectations of children from kids content changed over a period of time?
They are now seeking newness. Therefore, repetition is not as popular as it was earlier and so you cannot repeat content as much as earlier. They are looking at relevant newness in the contemporary world today. So if you are not being relevant in your stories and you do not have digital assets or you don’t have action adventure that is relevant today then you are losing out with that child. It is about newness, it is about variety, it is about experiments, it is about innovation if you ask me. It is about taking risks, innovating and making sure that you do things better.
Is OTT going to be important for kids as India is primarily a single TV home?
Yes, but it is not only about India being a single TV home. It is also about kids being screenagers. They want to be engaged on every screen possible. We want to make sure that as they move from the big screens to the small screens we should be available. We make sure that we are on Voot when kids consume OTT.
Does OTT complement or compete with TV viewing?
OTT complements TV. OTT is about wanting to consume content at your time and your convenience. If a show is not on the channels FPC at that point of time then kids can go to Voot and watch. I am not giving the child a missed opportunity to not watch content. Voot Kids primetime is very different from television primetime. That is because kids get the device at 8 pm. That is because they have to get the smartphone or the tablet or the gadget from their parents or from their older sibling.
What role does selling IPs abroad play in the strategy?
They play a big role. It is about disseminating shows and seeing that characters transcend borders and entertain kids abroad. I have said it before that if we can import content and dub it then there is no reason why other countries cannot import our content and air it in their languages. We want to grow syndication revenues. This helps create an ecosystem.
In terms of licensing and merchandising activities are parents willing to spend more?
Parents spend and bend over backward for children. But there have to be price points for different segments. That is how our price segments work. We do have stuff that is low, medium as well as premium priced. Today parents are willing to spend on entertainment. They are willing to bend backward not only for education.
The whole point is tangibilise the brand and character. Consumer products play a big role in touch and feel. Digital games, product, and promo licensing are big engagers Children can play with Motu Patlu toys, they can do his puzzle, they can wear his clothes, they can take his water bottle to school.
The Nick Kids Choice Awards has received traction. Are you looking at doing more on-ground events?
It will happen again in FY19 for sure. But over and above that, we continue to entertain kids with school contact programmes, mall activation. We did an augmented reality interaction in a mall. These are small, small things that we continue to do. We did a Summer Carnival initiative with Inox where the made for TV movies played there.
Are you looking at more theatrical releases?
We would love to do more of them as it takes characters from the small to the big screen. It is a delight for kids to watch the character coming out of a large screen and the last time we did it in 3D with ‘Motu Patlu’. There is a completely different excitement in the theatre.