"Today's kids are far more democratic than they were before"

Disney-UTV's core content creators Devika Prabhu & Indrajit Ray highlight the key trends in the kids genre and how storytelling is central to their content strategy

e4m by Abhinav Trivedi
Updated: Aug 21, 2013 8:00 AM
"Today's kids are far more democratic than they were before"

A research done by a leading marketing agency some time ago mentioned that brands are increasingly resorting to kids channels to reach parents, citing increased involvement of children in buying decisions.

So, what is the kids genre serving and how is a channel like Disney-UTV pitching itself to the kids? Is there a dearth of India shows for kids? How is the genre evolving?

exchange4media spoke to Devika Prabhu, Director – Programming and Acquisition, and Indrajit Ray, Executive Director – Content at Disney-UTV on how the kids genre is evolving. Excerpts.

Where is the kids entertainment genre headed?
Devika Prabhu: This genre is evolving primarily because the target audience is evolving. Today’s kids are far more democratic than they were before. They have very strong opinions on what their preferences are. Across the entire spectrum, they are more involved in the decisions that affect their lives. That is something which is going to decide the future for this genre. With digitisation and other developments, the interactivity of the genre is going to go up as kids today are far more digitally active than their parents.

In India, as research shows, kids are mostly windows of technology. Very often we have cases where children teach parents technology. All of this will influence the way how we shape and produce content. Right now TV is a discussion point in a child’s conversation. Going forward, it will become a more personal medium. As technology evolves, TV is getting handy. These factors will impact the kind of content and the nature of interactivity that it will have.

Indrajit Ray: This genre as a whole has largely been about animation. We are bringing more live action in the genre. With each passing year we are increasing the percentage of live genre. Be it animation, live action, experiential things, it’s a wholesome entertainment package. We are offering something that no one else is offering. We offer something which is good for everyone.

What are the latest initiatives you have taken to build interesting content and what are the insights that propel you to take content-related decisions?
Prabhu: One recent initiative that we have taken on Disney channel is creating live action content for families that are kids-centric. When we launched ‘Best of Luck Nikki’, we just had four per cent of schedule which had live action. It has now gone up to 17 per cent. The number of shows has gone up to five since then. This is one area that we are deeply committed to. Our shows are mostly about kids and families. Live action and animation movies are all part of it.

Ray: ‘Best of luck Nikki’, ‘DisneyQ’, ‘Oye Jassi’, etc., are some of our major initiatives on the content parameter. We are also working on other programmes that are in various stages of development. They will roll out between now and summer.

At FICCI Frames this year, Walt Disney international Chairman Andy Bird showcased some of the highlights of programmes in India, of which most were dubbed or adapted versions of American shows. Do you think there is a lack of original content in India?
Prabhu: We have produced content here. It would be a misnomer to think that we only work on adaption. I think the most important thing for us is to have good storytelling and iconic characters, which can resonate with the kids. So, when we select shows such as ‘Best of Luck Nikki’, ‘Karan’ and ‘Kabir’, it is because they resonate with universal truths. We are seeing 1-plus ratings on the show. For kids, the origin of the story does not matter, it is the line and chord that it strikes. If one connects to the character, origin is not very important in that case. Universal appeal transcends and that is the deciding factor. Take for example ‘DisneyQ’, which is a knowledge-based show where four members of a family are competing with four members of another family, that is how we project ourselves.

Do you think the kid’s genre is underserved in terms of content?
Prabhu: With four channels in our network, we are in a good space to serve. It’s a healthy thing. We are able to cater to viewers from age 2 to 80 years, so I don’t think that there is scope for being underserved.

What is the target group that you are looking at?
Ray: We have kids at the centre of the heart. But it is very important to have it in a way that every member of the family can enjoy it. We don’t want to confine ourselves to the fact that the channel is only for kids.

How do you ensure the same?
Prabhu: We have a strong parent track along with children. It is about interaction with the parents. We try to showcase our programmes with reality, which connects with everybody’s daily life. Research shows that at a certain age, kids look up to TV characters, which teach him/her to do basic things in life. And parents too use these examples. They, therefore, get an automatic connect.

Post 10+2 ad regulation, will there be any content improvisation strategy? Is there pressure to produce better quality content post October 2013?
Prabhu: No, there is no such pressure. We all strive for better content all the time and there is not time bound pressure in this context. What has to happen has to happen.

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