Video-streaming apps such as Netflix and Amazon Prime may have taken away some of India's premium TV-watching audiences but the OTT apps are unlikely to make any impact on kids’ channels and their growth prospects.
“TV still remains extremely strong and dominant. From a consumption perspective, currently, for kids outside metro cities, kids’ content on digital still remains on YouTube. They haven't yet moved to OTT. So both these ecosystems will remain healthy. Digital and TV are currently coexisting because of the strong character affinity that each of the platforms has. I don't see the tech giants impacting our revenue at least in the short or the medium term, especially in the kids' space,” Leena Lele Dutta, Business Head, Sony Pictures Networks, Kids' Genre, said.
Though many entertainment standalone apps have come up for kids, they do not have a huge monetisation. “The broadcast medium will continue to be the most dominant platform to attract revenue, especially where kids are concerned. Outside of YouTube, I don't see a reason for getting worried about revenue slipping off from the traditional media,” she said.
In the coming months, they plan to increase their focus on their OTT platform, SonyLiv Kids, a part of the SonyLiv app. “Currently, SonyLiv is in the early stages of working on its original content in Hindi and the regional markets. Meanwhile, we are engaging with our viewers through our engagement platforms on YouTube and Facebook. But in a few months' time, we will put pen to paper even for Liv Kids,” Dutta added.
Dutta believes that in the past year and a half, they've gone much beyond being only a television broadcaster and have created a very strong digital presence. She says that with the changing environment, they have realised that the only way to catch a kid’s attention is through digital media.
Their engagement quotient with the kids across platforms is quite robust. The avenues of exposure for kids’ entertainment have become so seamless and fluid that the kids are now consuming content across platforms and with a whole lot of co-viewing.
“The exposure to content is no longer limited to one medium. Currently, kids, especially because of the Covid impact, are into multi-platform engagement, whether it is television or devices through YouTube, or games, or any other engagement platform. So when we are offering our product to the advertisers, we don't talk about only television, we talk about integrating our characters and the advertiser’s brand across platforms. So while the majority of the spends may traditionally rest on our channel, we offer them initiatives on digital platforms. Advertisers are no longer seeking a platform-oriented solution, instead, they need a 360-degree solution,” she said.
While they do have long-form content on their YouTube channel, their short-form content is the one that attracts the required time span for the kids to be actually engaged in. So their entire digital ecosystem is designed for short-form content. They have also created extensions of their existing brands for their YouTube platforms.
For example, for their show Honey Bunny ka Jholmaal, they have created a short-video format by adding a new character ‘Funny’. He will only be available on YouTube for some time and then will be taken on air. Their mobile games give the kids the opportunity to live the characters. Apart from theme-based fun and learning workshops, they host watch parties on Facebook for their marquee properties.
“We have found that the registrations keep doubling up every week for our watch party. At one point in time, we used to do 50-60 city van activation across the length and breadth of India and now our entire medium is catching them on digital platforms. It is very heartening to see this transformation,” she said.
Speaking on their digital strategy, Dutta said that whatever they create, curate, and acquire, they do it in two to three buckets. “One is a pure-play entertainment bucket, where we urge the kids to just watch something. For instance, a watch party, where they don't need to do anything, just interact with the toons, play games, and have fun. Besides that, we have acquired a whole lot of DIY content from specialised curators to keep the kids engaged. And then we have games, which are a part of our storylines. So that's basically the three-pronged strategy that we are working on for our digital platforms.”
After a disastrous second wave of the Covid pandemic, the channel began witnessing recovery last month and they are now optimistic about the remaining year. “From an advertising perspective, the outlook looks pretty promising from next month, with festivities kicking in, till the New Year,” she said.
The summer vacations are the peak season for kids' channels. However in the last two years, the first and the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic coincided with the vacations. While last year was a complete washout for Sony Yay!, Dutta said they were better prepared this year.
“Since summer is the peak time, new shows are launched and new viewership habits are established. We had the launch of our biggest show Taarak Mehta ka Chhota Chashmah and because of the familiarity, relatability, and uniqueness, the show became an instant success among the kids. And it attracted a whole lot of co-viewing audiences as well. We also prepped up with new episodes of our shows and acquired a few international shows and transformed them for the Indian audience. So unlike last year, this April-May was better for us with our reach and time spent increasing,” she said.
However, with 70% of the advertising on the kids' category coming from FMCG, the channel witnessed a huge slump in advertising during these months. “With rural parts of the country being affected during the second wave, the FMCG advertisers took a conscious call of not distributing their products in those markets. Since there was no distribution there was no advertising. Compared to the previous months, there was a large impact on the kids' category,” Dutta added.