Sony Yay! charts growth strategy to break into top five in 2019

MUMBAI: SPNI’s kids channel Sony Yay! which celebrated its first anniversary in April this year is looking to enter the top five in 2019. To do so, the channel needs to 9% which it is confident of achieving. Currently, Sony Yay’s market share stands at 6%.

The channel plans to ramp up the number of hours of original content to 350-400 for 2019 fiscal. This will be the equivalent to what was produced cumulatively in the first two fiscals. The plan is to produce 20 movies and around 100 episodes adding to 52 hours at least of three of the channels flagship shows. The movies are an extension of the TV shows and the aim is to make characters larger than life.

On the OTT front, the channel is adopting a different strategy and is targetting pre-schoolers through specially curated content based on its characters on SPNI’s OTT platform SonyLIV. The broadcaster is also looking at more categories in the licensing and merchandising arena and is pleased with how the partnership with Black White Orange is progressing.

“Though the kids space is extremely cluttered, the goal of reaching the top five is extremely achievable. We see a lot of space and gaps that we are looking to fill in 2019. We are ramping up our content volume and we are getting into brand extensions of our existing characters. We will have 350-400 hours of content in 2019 which is what we did in the previous two years. We will be doing more movies, TV series and go deeper with character licensing plans. You will see a lot of noise coming from us on-air and on-ground,” said Sony Yay! business head Leena Lele Dutta.

She further stated that Sony Yay! is at a 6% market share and 9% market share to get into the top five. “This is highly achievable and we are very confident of our content line-up for the April-June 2019 quarter. The category peaks in the summer and we are confident that we will be in a position to be in the top five.”

Sony Yay! is focussed on building its existing characters and take them to the next level. ‘Sab Jholmaal Hai’ is the channel’s tentpole show and constitutes 50% of the GRPs. “We are planning to build more franchises and content around Honey Bunny,” she added.

Digital is playing an important role both on SonyLIV and YouTube through moppet tales for the show. The characters are being seen in a new avatar. Growing characters’ popularity and building them further through brand extensions will be the focus area in 2019.

With ‘Kicko And Super Speedo’, the plan is to launch a game in 2019. The game will be an integral part of the show and vice versa. The aim is to keep the viewer coming back to watch different aspects and avatars of characters.

The key markets for Sony Yay! is Delhi, Maharashtra and South India. The focus is now on West Bengal and Kerala. “We launched the Malayalam feed and within no time we were the number one channel over there. The traction for the Bangla feed has been slow as kids take time to get used to toons speaking in that language,” she noted.

Dutta said that Sony Yay! has a first mover advantage in West Bengal as nobody has done a Bangla feed. It claims to be a number 3 channel in West Bengal.

In a bid to cater to urban India, the channel launched an English feed this year. “Most of the feedback that we got from parents was that they wanted English content so that kids whose mother tongue is Hindi could consume content in English. It was also important for us to launch in many international markets. That was another reason to have an English audio feed which enabled us to extend our footprint beyond India,” she stated.

Sony Yay! is looking to add two more language audio feeds – Kannada and Marathi – in the first quarter of 2019.”

Dutta feels that the focus on existing IPs, launching fresh content and adding new language feeds will deliver results for the channel.

She also pointed out that the kids TV landscape will only get challenging as existing players will invest heavily in new IPs. “Disney will invest again in a fresh set of IPs. We know that Viacom18 will also probably invest in three to four more IPs. The landscape is going to get aggressive. Honestly speaking I don’t see anybody else out the four of us – Disney, Turner, Viacom18 and us getting into this game in the next year. The ecosystem will revolve around the four of us.”

She said that the gestation period for creating a new show is one year at best. She noted that animated shows take three to four years to complete.

“We have five pillars of reaching out to kids in terms of what they want. We talk about characters being friendly. We talk about some sort of humour being attached to the shows. We talk about the entertainment quotient. We talk about a story which is tight and gripping. It has a start and an end in itself. And we talk about the quality of animation. This is what we give thorough importance to. These are the five checkpoints that we do our rigorous research on before we get to commissioning a show. Humour and entertainment are at the core of what we do.”

On the OTT front, she noted that the channel creates separate content for SonyLIV. “We have 15-18 short form shows that we curated from existing footage and which we are shooting on our own. We are in fact engaging on the digital platform a little differently from what we are doing on-air. We feel that digital for kids is more consumed by toddlers and preschoolers. We are using our characters to talk the language of toddlers which is more of learning and storytelling rather than leaning towards the entertainment quotient. We will have two forms of content.”

While Sony Yay! is behind the paywall on SonyLIV, it also creates ad-led content. According to Dutta, SonyLIV gives Sony Yay! the opportunity to target kids when they are just two to three years old. Kids become aware of who characters like Honey Bunny are and then graduate to watching the characters on Sony Yay! Character loyalty thus will be built over a decade explains Dutta.

She said that the challenge of diversification of revenue streams is an opportunity for Sony Yay! as it owns all the IP for shows. That, she noted, is not the case with other broadcasters in the genre. “We are extending all our characters on-ground through licensing and merchandising programmes being done through our partnership with Black White Orange. This will start to show through sizeable revenues coming in the next two years. We are also looking at doing a lot of on-ground initiatives where our toons will be our ambassadors.”

Currently, advertising and subscription are the key revenue streams. Going forward, content syndication, distribution, licensing and merchandising are also expected to contribute to the overall revenue.

As far as L&M is concerned, Sony Yay! operates in four categories and the plan is to expand into 10 more categories next year. Toys, apparel, back to school are important categories. Rainwear is also important but next year the canvas will be much wider.

Being part of a bigger network has helped Sony Yay! to cross-sell and tap new advertisers. She noted that the Sony Yay! sales team has managed to get clients who might not normally look at the kids genre and the strategy in these cases revolves around clubbing Sony Yay! with another channel like Sony Sab.

She pegs the kids genre ad pie at around Rs. 500 crore which is very small given the number of players which is why Sony Yay! is laser-focussed on creating ancillary revenue streams as well.

In terms of international distribution, she said that the channel’s footprint spans South Asia, Saarc, UK, and the US. The distribution in the UK, US is being handled by affiliate partners. The broadcaster is not looking at selling formats as the focus is more on syndicating the shows to other platforms.

“We are exploring newer markets as we have the advantage of languages. We can go into markets where there is a heavy Indian diaspora of say Tamil living and operating. Our international team is evaluating opportunities to take Sony Yay! into as many countries as possible.”