“There is no non-prime time rate in my chan­nel”

After a decade in the busi­ness of en­ter­tain­ing chil­dren, there is no­body else who un­der­stands kids bet­ter.

The Brand Reporter - - FRONT PAGE - anirban.choud­hury@afaqs.com

It was con­sid­ered a brave de­ci­sion a decade ago when Nina Elavia Jaipuria quit Sony to join Vi­a­com18 as the busi­ness head for its kids’ chan­nel. Es­pe­cially so as they had to take on the might of Car­toon Network and Pogo along with Dis­ney (which had ac­quired Hungama TV just then).

Ten years later, not only did Vi­a­com18’s chil­dren’s chan­nel Nick­eleodeon blaze a path for it­self, it would be no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say that what Jaipuria does not know about chil­dren and the chil­dren’s mar­ket is not worth know­ing. Today, as the Busi­ness Head, Kids’ Clus­ter, Vi­a­com18, looks back on an sat­is­fy­ing 10 years, she re­mem­bers that the only ex­pe­ri­ence she had with kids was lim­ited to her in­ter­ac­tions with her then three-year-old daugh­ter.

Today, the kids broad­cast busi­ness in In­dia is around `500 crore and Nick­elodeon has be­come a force to reckon with - it has re­mained No 1 in the cat­e­gory since the last three years, com­pet­ing with the likes of Turner and Dis­ney. Sony re­cently en­tered the fray with Yay. But Nick has no in­ten­tion of let­ting go. Edited ex­cerpts from an in­ter­view with the lady in charge:

What were the chal­lenges you faced 10 years ago?

When I joined, Nick was an English lan­guage chan­nel. The first thing we did was to dub the shows in Hindi and then in South In­dian lan­guages. We sat down to un­der­stand kids and their en­ter­tain­ment needs. We found that it was about giv­ing them con­tent that they love. We went ahead and ac­quired Ninja Hat­tori, our ever­green sol­dier, who is go­ing strong even today. We con­tin­ued to ac­quire con­tent from across the world and give them a col­lo­quial twist by dub­bing them in re­gional lan­guages.

While you con­tin­ued your ac­qui­si­tions, was there any re­search to back this strat­egy?

There are two rea­sons why kids came to TV. One was to get rid of bore­dom. Kids have tiny at­ten­tion spans and get bored quickly. There­fore, it is all about of­fer­ing them con­tent that they can en­gage with. Sec­ond, is the pres­sure they go through in their daily life - parental pres­sure, pres­sure of per­for­mance in school. They are ex­pected to win a medal even in a hobby class. So, kids choose TV which trans­ports them from the real pres­sure-filled world to a fic­tional one, an imag­i­nary world where there is no pres­sure, which is their com­fort zone where the char­ac­ters con­nect with them and be­come a part of their life.

I of­ten see re­peats on the chan­nel. Is that a de­lib­er­ate move?

Kids love to watch or hear the same story again and again It gives them a sense of com­fort, where they don’t need to dis­cover some­thing new. They like to feel that they know it all. That is why a lot of kids’ con­tent have high shelf lives.

What keeps live ac­tion con­tent away from the kids broad­cast­ing space. We have seen Shak­ti­maan tast­ing con­sid­er­able suc­cess. Why did you not think of do­ing some­thing sim­i­lar?

For kids broad­cast­ing to work it is very im­por­tant to take the kid into the imag­i­nary world and an­i­ma­tion plays a vi­tal role in that. I can­not imag­ine live ac­tion con­tent do­ing that un­less you make a Ma­trix ev­ery other day, which is not pos­si­ble. More than 90 per cent of con­tent in the cat­e­gory today is an­i­ma­tion.

The other thing is that Hu­man Su­per­heroes be­come ar­chaic, Su­per­man has had many Av­tars, James Bond took so many Av­tars that it be­came ar­chaic. An­i­ma­tion is ever­green. We have had Ninja Hat­tori in our port­fo­lio for 11 years and it con­tin­ues to de­liver high num­ber, con­tin­u­ing to con­nect with the kids. They love Ninja, want Ninja and that’s the ever­green-ness of an­i­ma­tion.

So, what drove you to creat­ing orig­i­nal home­grown con­tent?

Three things, ac­tu­ally. One, the com­pe­ti­tion was do­ing it. Turner was run­ning Ch­hota Bheem on Pogo. Two, it was about look­ing at the avail­able sup­ply of con­tent to ac­quire and how much we could lo­calise and how much we couldn’t. Three,

“You need to en­able kids to touch and feel the char­ac­ters.”

we thought we must de­velop our own in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty be­cause that en­ables us to nur­ture the fran­chisee. In 2011, we de­cided on lo­cal con­tent and in 2012 we launched Motu Patlu.

Why Motu Patlu?

Motu Patlu con­nects with the kids and par­ents. Par­ents read them in Lot­pot comics so it of­ten hap­pens that the par­ents and kids both sit to­gether and watch the se­ries. What we did was to take char­ac­ters from the comic and put them on TV. Of course, we styled the show and told it in a man­ner which a kid of today can re­late to.

It was a big risk be­cause though this is a show tar­geted at kids there is no child pro­tag­o­nist. The risk paid off - rev­enue and view­er­ship that we get from this IP can eas­ily run an en­tire chan­nel. We did not re­strict Motu Patlu to TV episodes and TV movies. There are mo­bile games, mer­chan­dise and we took it to the­atres and did a the­atri­cal re­lease too last year.

Now that you have mul­ti­ple orig­i­nal shows, how im­por­tant is it to dif­fer­en­ti­ate one from the other? How has the orig­i­nal con­tent cre­ation phe­nom­e­non changed the in­dus­try?

It is im­por­tant to play across dif­fer­ent gen­res in the kids’ space. If you see our orig­i­nals, Pak­dam Pak­dai is a chase show, Shiva is a goodover-evil ac­tion com­edy show, Motu Patlu is about Fur­furi Nagar at the heart­land of In­dia, and the lat­est one from us Gattu Battu is a de­tec­tive show with blend of com­edy. The IP cre­ation has en­abled lo­cal­i­sa­tion to take over and has en­abled us to cre­ate a sus­tain­able ecosys­tem.

How do you fuel the growth of that orig­i­nal show?

Creat­ing a show is not enough, you need to ‘tan­gi­bilise’. You need to en­able kids to touch and feel the char­ac­ters. So we have mo­bile games in­volv­ing our char­ac­ters, we have mer­chan­dise, we ar­range mee­tand-greet ses­sions across malls and other high foot­fall ar­eas with our char­ac­ters. I will like to state a very re­cent in­ci­dent – ‘Why not,’ we asked our­selves, ‘con­sider Rak­sha­band­han as Su­rak­sha­band­han and tie a Rakhi to every­body who pro­tects us – from the nanny to the se­cu­rity guard in the build­ing to the cops in the city?’

We started that and took it to the ex­treme and reached Wa­gah Bor­der to cel­e­brate Su­rak­sha­band­han and tie Rakhis to the jawans. We thought we would take ‘Dora’ to the bor­der, be­cause she is the ex­plorer who likes to travel. We got a for­mal re­quest from the jawans who wanted us to send Shiva along. That was mu­sic to my ears and we said sure. That shows Shiva’s value in the so­ci­ety. These char­ac­ters have donned a celebrity sta­tus which I thought was only privy to Bol­ly­wood stars.

From a mar­ket­ing point of view, who is the tar­get?

There are kids, there are par­ents and there is the ad­ver­tis­ing com­mu­nity. The chal­lenge for us is to reach out to all of them. We of­ten had to cre­ate dif­fer­ent mar­ket­ing cam­paigns for dif­fer­ent tar­gets. As a broad­caster, it is im­por­tant for me to have the gate­keeper’s per­mis­sion and trust. If not, I could get writ­ten off. So if you see the kind of things we do, when we launched Gattu Battu we painted two lo­cal trains in Mumbai, we did 3D floor paint­ings in high foot­fall ar­eas. Re­cently there was a straw­berry fes­ti­val in Ban­dra and my mar­ket­ing team came and told me that Dora would be there ex­plor­ing the fes­ti­val. When I asked how that would help, they replied that there will be a lot of kids com­ing with their par­ents and we can in­ter­act with both.

You deal with ex­pen­sive con­tent and an un­der-in­dexed in­dus­try. Is it prof­itable for you?

We are a prof­itable busi­ness and con­trib­ute to Vi­a­com18’s rev­enue sig­nif­i­cantly. That’s be­cause we al­ways made sure that we keep the cash bell ring­ing. Ten years back, the kids’ cat­e­gory was 1 per cent of the to­tal ad-pie. Today, it is be­tween `500 and `600 crore - about 3 per cent of the to­tal ad­ver­tis­ing pie. We are still un­der-in­dexed be­cause we are about 6 per cent in terms of view­er­ship.

How do you make money?

Our ad sales are grow­ing at 20 per cent year-on-year - not only be­cause of an in­crease in slot rates but also be­cause of the kind of in­te­gra­tions and part­ner­ships we do. We in­te­grate brands in our sto­ries where the char­ac­ters use them. You will see Motu Patlu hav­ing Hor­licks. We sell at a pre­mium rate through­out the day, there is no non-prime time rate in my chan­nel be­cause kids watch con­tent at any point of time. We are tak­ing baby steps in mer­chan­dis­ing and li­cens­ing and soon that will be a sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tor in the mix.

Do brands that advertise on Nick al­ways tar­get kids?

Kids play a vi­tal role in de­ci­sion mak­ing - you want to buy a phone, you dis­cuss with your kids, you want to buy a tooth­paste they have a say... We see a lot of non-kids brands as­so­ci­at­ing with us, like Dabur, Sam­sonite, VIP, Ama­zon, Flip­kart.

Where does the in­dus­try need to in­vest at this point of time?

I think it needs to in­vest on qual­ity con­tent cre­ation. We refuse many pitches be­cause they do not match the stan­dards we want on our chan­nels. We need to or­gan­ise work­shops and jam about con­tent cre­ation so that we can of­fer kids qual­ity con­tent.

We have seen Star Launch­ing a free-to-air (FTA) sports chan­nel. Are you plan­ning one for kids?

Forty per cent of our rat­ings come from ru­ral so we have our pres­ence there. Since kids con­tent has a huge shelf life it is dif­fi­cult for me to put con­tent from pay chan­nels on FTA as well. If I have to do FTA with orig­i­nal FTA-only con­tent then I will face a chal­lenge to mon­e­tise it be­cause the cost of con­tent is high. If mon­eti­saton be­comes as lu­cra­tive as it is in pay we might eval­u­ate an FTA launch.

What would you like to see hap­pen­ing in the kids broad­cast­ing space?

I would like to see more qual­ity con­tent, see sub­scrip­tion rev­enue grow sig­nif­i­cantly. A re­ally sweet spot would be to have 7 per cent ad spend share for the 7 per cent mar­ket share. I am happy with the growth of mer­chan­dis­ing. The Peppa Pig stock in Ham­ley’s, for in­stance, sold out in 10 days. Soon we will be in a sce­nario where 15-20 per cent of the rev­enue comes from mer­chan­dis­ing. ■

“It’s im­por­tant for me to have the gate­keeper’s per­mis­sion and trust.”

NINA ELAVIA JAIPURIA BUSI­NESS HEAD, KIDS CLUS­TER VIACOM 18

NINA ELAVIA JAIPURIA BUSI­NESS HEAD, KIDS CLUS­TER, VI­A­COM18

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