"We need to get the local content texture right"

We should not force fit local relevance, but make content that is global in nature & locally appealing, says Vijay Subramaniam of Disney-UTV

by Synjini Nandi
Published - Jan 3, 2013 8:23 PM Updated: Jan 3, 2013 8:23 PM
"We need to get the local content texture right"

With the advent of digitisation, it has been predicted that the kids’ genre would prove to be of high significance, with marketing and a strong content strategy being crucial for players in this genre.

According to Vijay Subramaniam, Executive Director, Kids Network, Disney-UTV, what is more important is to drive the fact that Disney is a wholesome family entertainment, and one of the best ways to express this thought is to deliver these stories in a locally relevant manner and putting it across to viewers, starting with kids.

In conversation with exchange4media, Subramaniam, talks about the long standing philosophy of Disney Kids Network, its growth strategy for 2013 and the introduction of ‘Disney Junior’ to its network portfolio.

The year 2012 was said to be a slow one for the Indian media industry in general. What was the experience for Disney Kids Network on this count?
The year 2012 has been a very powerful and strong year for us creatively and it has resulted in a rather stellar performance. Disney Network has a 44 per cent share of all India viewing in the kids’ genre (Source: TAM; TG: CS ABC 4-14; Market: All India; Period: Week 1-Week 40, 2012, all days, 0700-2300 hrs) and a 45 per cent share of viewing in the kids’ genre in HSM (Source: TAM; TG: CS ABC 4-14; Market: HSM; Period: Week 1-Week 40, 2012, all days, 0700-2300 hrs). This is one indicator of how strong the performance was in 2012.

I think the second crucial indicator is the fact that we have managed to consolidate the position that our channels hold in the kids’ network. We have over 100 weeks of being No. 1. We had 200 plus GRPs. The reason all this was possible is because we had a strong year with respect to creativity, both in terms of content and engagement. What we have driven more consciously is the guiding principle of how we view our target audience. Disney is accepted for its story telling prowess and is a much loved brand by both kids and adults. What is very important for us is to understand the local nuances of love.

We committed ourselves to local live action productions with shows such as ‘Best of luck Nikki’ Seasons 1 and 2, ‘The Suite Life of Karan and Kabir’ Season 1, and ‘Luck luck ki baat’, which was an original movie that we produced. These further gave us the momentum to continuously drive in that direction.

We saw you engage with some exhaustive marketing activities in the year – Jet Set Go and others. What drove your growth strategy for 2012?
Content and programming for us is the science and art part of broadcast. We have committed ourselves to delivering high quality compelling stories, or experiences in a locally relevant manner – be it through content, programming strategy or through marketing. Our philosophy is to provide kid-centric family engagement and that is what we do very well since we present wholesome family entertainment to our viewers. We have taken this strategy further since we genuinely believe that it is something that the consumers love and also works from the business point of view as it is a strong differentiator to have.

Also, another creative expression that is working for us is bringing back classics such as ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, etc; stories which have been liked and loved by generations. These started performing for us and led to much better interaction with our consumers. We have an overriding expectation that we use our story, our characters and our expressions to build strong memorable connections with our consumers. We want to give our consumers the Disney like magical feel and that was also when we started with ‘Jet set go’. We believe that the magic of Disney, when delivered, leads to consumers responding in a unanimous way. Then there are various metrics, including the kind of response we got, which is six million entries and we made kids the hero.

Disney has paid attention to locally created content in India. Did the year 2012 take forward the content strategy of previous years or did you inject a new thought, given your experience of what kids in India are watching?
If you were to ask then yes, I would say that the content is fresh. OPD and Live action production is very unique, innovative, and extremely creative and something that we have spurred. Also, it is our DNA. We have constantly put up some of the best live action stories and what we have realised is that some of these stories are rich in their storytelling abilities and have high potential for local narrator. What we need to do is to get the local texture right. The local narrator is very important and that is the freshness that we have brought in. We do not need to force fit local relevance, but we do need to make it much more creative and make the content, which is global in nature, locally appealing. If you see the campaigns that we built around the classic stories, they presented the story and its different elements in a locally relevant manner.

How did you see your marketing and programming strategy translate in terms of:
a. Viewership
b. Advertising revenue

The most important factor is that our performance has not only been strong but also consistent. People don’t watch, but consume Disney channel. They are part of some of the experiences, if not all of the stories that we present. Also, what is important is that we are encouraging the scope for loyalty. The stories have to constantly resonate. From the business point of view, we had a strong double digital growth led by Disney channel and followed by the other network channels. We are pretty much in line with the business goals that we had set for ourselves.

Language feed for kids’ channels is generally said to be doing well. Did 2012 bring any new learning on this?
Our channel is available in Hindi, English, Telugu and Tamil for over four years now, three in case of Hungama. So, again it can be connected to our philosophy of delivering wholesome family entertainment. It is very important to understand that India is a diverse market and languages are an important part of it. Languages give us the ability to penetrate different markets and take our stories in those markets. These are wonderful stories that need to be told. Being able to deliver in these languages give you the benefit to reach out to these many people and give them a preference of consumption. Also, apart from language, retaining the main essence of the story is critical. The sound of the characters is also important, which needs to be retained. In future, we might have more language feeds depending on the market characteristics.

What was the thought process behind the launch of Disney Junior? What are you expecting from this channel in terms of addition to your viewership and revenues?
Disney Junior is an important compliment to the Disney portfolio. So, it is crucial for us to get these channels in a strong place and consolidate them, since we have always been clear of the fact that the pre-school early school audience (two to seven years) needs an environment to call their own. Also, Disney channel always had a pre-school block – ‘Disney Junior’ – and hence, is not an entirely new concept. Components of the channel would be great storytelling, understanding the needs of that age group such as learning, discovery, imagination, etc., and to remain very entertaining and preparing the child for life.

From the measurement point of view, we do not want to be tied up since it is coming to a unique environment and catering to a unique segment, which was underserved till now. It is playing a very important strategic role in the overall portfolio of the channel. This would be a child’s first branded Disney content experience and playing on a much broader spectrum. At present, we are targeting 10 cities in stage one and we are also available in digital platforms in Gujarat, Punjab, etc. I think what is of high significance is the ability to deliver to this segment.

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