After a year and a half of hard work, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) gears up to enter the kids category with the launch of their new channel called Sony YAY!. Going on air from April 18, the channel, targeted at kids aged 2-14 years, has roped in Bollywood actor Tiger Shroff as its brand ambassador. A lot of emphasis has been put on local content as the channel launches with four original, locally-produced animated shows: a musical comedy titled ‘Guru Aur Bhole’ (from Monday to Friday) at 10 am, ‘Sab Jholmaal Hai,’ a show around pets (from Monday to Friday) at 9 am, a show on friendship ‘Prince Jai Aur Dumdaar Viru’ (from Monday to Friday) at 11 am and a ghost comedy ‘Paap-O-Meter’ on weekends at 12 pm.
NP Singh, Chief Executive Officer, SPN and Leena Lele Dutta, Business Head, Sony YAY! throw some light on the channel’s USP, content strategy, and timing of launch:
How many hours of original content are you launching with? What’s the bank you have created?
NP Singh: We are launching with four original series.
Leena Lele Dutta: 80 per cent of our slots are filled with local shows, from 7 am to 10 pm. We are promoting 7-10 timeband in the morning hoping to garner additional eyeballs. Each of the episodes is 22 minutes, consisting of two stories of 11 minutes each (for each for these four shows). We are going to have the same shows, but not the same episodes. We have a mix-and-match of stories played out during the day.
By the end of the year, we will have 52 episodes of 22 minutes each. There are 104 stories for each of these four shows. When we launch with two other shows in October, there will be another addition of 52 episodes. So, in the first year, we will have a healthy bank of our content piece.
Will you have acquired content on your channel?
Dutta: We are not focusing that much even on international shows in terms of promotion because our proposition is very different. Come October, we will move away from acquired content completely and have six shows played out. We will stand out with original content. That's our core USP. No other channel has launched with four indigenous shows.
Can you give us an idea about the investment in the channel considering animation is an expensive business?
Singh: It certainly is. It’s a conscious call that we took that we will differentiate ourselves from the rest by launching with four original shows and bring two-three more in October or November. That requires a lot of effort, time, and investment as well. We are willing to do it and have done it.
What role did the market size of the kid’s category play in terms of timing the launch of the channel?
Singh: The genre has been under-indexed for a long period of time. Last year, we saw a 20 per cent correction. Right now, it is Rs 500 crore and it is going to grow. Kids have become an important part of decision-making at home. Parents are watching with the kids. Therefore, it gives us an opportunity to go to a larger mass for viewership, which will also impact the rates positively. The overall growth in this genre will become more robust.
Have you roped in any advertisers? Are you just looking at the kid’s category?
Singh: Not yet. The channel has been presented to the advertisers and the response has been encouraging. There is an emerging trend of kids participating in decision-making at home. They become the key influences at home. This gives us an opportunity to go to a larger array of advertisers.
What insights did you get from the research done for your entry into this category?
Dutta: There was a lack of differentiated local content. We are trying to fill in the need gaps by coming out with a musical comedy and a funny ghost story, amongst others, basically trying to reach out to the kids and give them what is missing from the staple diet. If you look at ‘Sab Jhol Maal Hai’, it’s a pets comedy with a layer of beautiful storytelling as well. All of these insights have come from the kids. For stories, we have picked up the daily issues kids face in life.
Who are the studios you are working with?
Dutta: We are working with Cosmos Maya, Toonz, Phoebus Animation, and Ssoftoons. Having said that, we have created an entire robust ecosystem for ideation, script-writing, and creative execution of each of these shows in-house. Once we get that done, we go to animation studios for the full and final animation.
Are you planning to get into licensing and merchandising?
Singh: Yes, someday. We will first let the characters interact with the kids.
What’s the target that you have set for Sony YAY!?
Singh: It’s a highly competitive genre. If it comes in the top 5 in a year, I will be happy.
How are you going to create affinity for your shows and characters?
Dutta: We are launching at an opportune time, just at the onset of summer vacation where the consumption is 25 to 30 per cent higher. We are coming at a time where new habits will be formed for the rest of the year. The launch time is very critical to help us take it to another level. That is why we have gone with such timeslots.
How are you sharp targeting?
Singh: Our sharper TG will be six to eight. Our content is made with that age group in mind. But, it will have a wider appeal ranging from a four-year old to 10-year-old or even me.
Will your revenue generation be mostly advertisement-driven?
Singh: It will be both advertisement and subscription driven. The industry average today is 65:35. It might change. Merchandising will become a big part of the revenue generation. There will be growth in digital in the time to come, but not immediately. In some time, once the characters become popular, we can get into events.