To Indian television, where variety in content is an arguable issue, one genre that promises interesting development is kid’s programming. It would not be wrong to say in the current scenario, that minus Cartoon Network and a few efforts on other channels, the genre hasn’t developed much. POGO on Indian television is an attempt at differentiated kid’s programming and the channel is putting its best to get the right content. The question however is whether the best is good enough in the present Indian context?
Turner India is pondering on the same question. The network has undertaken the initiative ‘Straight from the Experts’ to get a few answers.
The research: ‘Straight from the Experts’
The channel commissioned TNS to execute the research. This is a first of its kind research in India, carried in January 2004 and is specific to the age group 3 to 6 yrs. The methodology was one-on-one depth interviews with a structured discussion guide with children specialists like educators and psychologists/psychiatrists in the cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. The sample size is fifteen.
The interaction with the experts was divided in two sessions. The first included general discussion on what children today watch and what they should ideally watch. The selected specialists were then left with four POGO programmes. In the second session, they commented about these programmes specifically.
Looking at the session-wise findings, Pradeep Hejmadi, Research Director, Turner International India, explains, “To begin with the research studies the role that parents play in initiating child to television viewing. Here, one is the intentional way. This is fine, as the parent puts the child on a kid’s programme. However, the second way, which is unintentional viewing, is what is dangerous.”
He elucidates that as a secondary viewer, the child is exposed to programmes that don’t suit his cognitive thinking and the effects of these are negative. As per the research, specialists comment that elements like stereotyping, clutter, fast pace and too much too soon, which are a hook point for adults, have overriding negatives on children. For good kid’s programming, in terms of content, these should be replaced by positive theme and basic concepts, which are in tune with the child’s cognitive development stage.
The findings further show that in terms of execution, the programmes should be simple and easy to understand, there has to be an emphasis on repetition, there should be limited use of fast moving images and the show should be summed up in one occasion. In terms of physical elements of the programme, specialists suggest that there should be more visual and less verbal, music, bright colours and a central character that the child can identify with.
Specialists express in the research that a media entity like a kid’s channel or programme can be utilised in the first steps of a child’s cognitive development. Speaking more on the second session’s findings, Hejmadi says, “Each of our specialists have spent considerable time with the programmes and then based on that, the observations are made.” The four programmes that were analysed are Barney and friends, Miffy and Friends, Teletubbies and Franny’s Feet. Experts gave comments on each of the shows individually. Says Hejmadi, “Measuring on various parameters that specialists laid out for ideal children’s programming, POGO programmes are approved as suitable for young children. This is very encouraging for us and speaking to them has given insights that will help us consolidate our leadership in programming for young kids.”
The experiment: defining a need or catering to one
Turner’s claim of being a leader in kid’s programming is not a light one, considering Cartoon Network is the only survivor in the number of kid’s channels like Nickelodeon, Splash and the erstwhile Kermit that entered Indian television. Now let’s look at POGO’s offering more closely. Hejmadi explains that the channel has day parted to cater to specific targets. The morning and afternoon essentially belong to the 3-6 age group, with the attempt to rope in their mothers as well. The evening target the 7-14 yrs old and from 7.00 pm onwards, the programmes are meant for the entire family.
The content that the channel provides is essentially in English. This allows one to draw comparison with the likes of Nickelodeon, Splash and Kermit, which barely record any TRPs. Adding to that, the fact that Cartoon Network’s success is largely attributed to the dubbing in Indian languages prove that there aren’t many takers of English programming. Hejmadi begs to differ, “These programmes are more about visuals. Also, if you look at it, when a child goes to school, nurseries are taught in English. These programmes will only aid him whatever he is already learning at that age.”
So the channel justifies the language. In the present scene, where there are no other players, perhaps this makes sense. POGO’s ratings might even bear witness to that, as the channel has recorded increase in viewership in different day parts for different target audience. However, once other players like UTV’s kid’s channels and Star Kidz come in place, which plan to induce Indian content, what would be the channel’s call? “As there are new players, there will be development of the genre itself. Everyone would need to adapt and cater to what is required. In that sense, we will grow as well but how will that growth be cannot be commented now.”
Another important characteristic of the Indian viewership scene is most household continue to be single TV households and many don’t even have remote controls. In such an environment, will a housewife view a kid’s channel? “There is a growing consciousness amongst mothers now that children must watch only what is meant for them and nothing else. So yes, we don’t think there will be a problem in getting the audience on the channel.”
Given that the only other player in the kid’s space is Cartoon Network, isn’t there a chance that POGO will eat into Cartoon Network’s viewership. Also the fact that POGO is promoted only on Cartoon Network would mean that it is essentially the Cartoon Network viewer that samples POGO. “Not necessarily,” says Hejmadi, “Cartoon Network is the second largest deliverer of children viewers, so it makes sense to advertise on the channel. How it would work is that children who view Cartoon Network and then move on to other channels would now sample POGO instead. Both the channels, even by way of content, compliment each other. They are like chappati and rice. You have a choice between the two but one doesn’t compete with the other.”
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