When it happens in India, it happens with a bang. The kids' space, which saw action only in the form of Cartoon Network, suddenly has an explosion, with eight channels making way on the scene. Mass entertainment still ruling the charts and single TV households still the order of the day, is there space for so many players in this space?
The current playground status
Examining kids' space more closely, while Cartoon Network has been the only strong player on the scene, there are other players like Nickelodeon and Splash also, which don't have much to show ratings wise. However, action is heating up here with Nickelodeon now going half Hindi. Kermit was on the scene for a while too but made a quiet exit. Early this year Cartoon Network launched sibling POGO.
Despite the presence of these channels, the highest kids' viewership is seen on general entertainment channels like STAR Plus, not only on kids oriented programmes but also on other shows.
In the soon-to-come batch, UTV's Hungama TV will make an entry later in the year and Sony Entertainment recently announced Animax for July 2004. While STAR India's, STAR Kidz seems to be on a back burner, the network is battling with Sony to hook Disney for the three channels that the international kids space giant plans to get on Indian television.
So can Indian television accommodate these players?
"Aren't there seven to eight news channels right now?" remarks Kunal Dasgupta, CEO, Sony Entertainment Television, "And all of them are doing well. Indian television entertainment is getting more specialised and it has space for more such channels to fall in place."
Nikhil Mirchandani, Executive Director, Strategic Marketing, Cartoon Network expresses, "We have successfully pioneered kids' television in India with the launch of Cartoon Network. For the past eight years, we have constantly worked at enhancing the segment."
Speaking more on the increase in players, he says, "As resident kids expert we will continue to raise the bar and set the standards for the industry and we welcome competition. Experience tells us that entry of serious players in kids' television entertainment will only help grow the segment further."
A thought that Purnendu Bose, COO, Hungama TV shares, "Right now, the kids market is not in the competitive mode but on the expanding mode. In this case, the more the merrier!"
But we are still talking about single TV households. Will the remote controls be given to children to watch the programmes of their choice? "But that scenario is changing. Also these brands will take five years to establish. So them making their entry now will suit the media scene of the future just right," says Dasgupta.
"C&S households are growing at 15 per cent per annum," informs Bose, "Also, if you draw an international comparison, in UK, there are more than 20 channels catering to 11 million children. In India, the kid's population is 50 million. I don't think it would be a problem to have eight channels or even more."
An interesting aspect that comes to fore here is that while the dayparts that seem to be working for existing kids channels are non-primetime bands for general entertainment channels, the slots can be developed such that they could be competing directly with general entertainment channels. Mirchandani elucidates, "Traditionally, 4.00 to 8.00 p.m. worked very well for us. But with the launch of Tiny TV, 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. also proved to be a whole new primetime."
Where that is one problem that kids' channels will face, the second is the kids oriented programming on channels like STAR Plus. But does the mass entertainment leader think these channels will affect its programming? "No. These channels will be competing with us. For this kind of programming, we are the benchmark. We have created the potential for kids' entertainment and competition is always welcome. We have a loyal audience and so we don't think this should affect our viewership but in case if it does, then there are always remedies," states Deepak Segal, Sr. VP, Content and Communication, Star India.
Shedding some light on how media experts perceive the sudden outburst of kids' channels, Jasmin Sohrabji, President, MediaCom, South Asia observes, "Success of a channel does not depend on how many players already exist in the space, it really depends on the product offering. Great quality programming will dictate where the remote stops, irrespective of clutter or not!"
"Content plus communication is the key," puts in Punitha Arumugam, CEO, Madison Media (West), "looking at the current example, localised content will be important. Also it is equally significant to lay focus on how this is communicated to the children, whether it school contact programmes or word of mouth. The biggest challenge that these channels will face is that they will have a very small window, which they have to maximise to the fullest."
Speaking more on how many players will be strong in the category, Sohrabji says, "Kids do not have set patterns, they tend to be experimentative, so there is scope for more channels. But the space is never wide enough from a revenue point of view. More options will hold down the cost the channels can command. So, it may not be lucrative for all players." "Only two or three will lead the pack," throws in Arumugam.