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While children watch what parents watch in many homes, they increasingly control the remote at certain times of the day. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint (Priyanka Parashar/Mint)
While children watch what parents watch in many homes, they increasingly control the remote at certain times of the day. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint
(Priyanka Parashar/Mint)

New platforms, new growth

According to the Ficci-KPMG report, the fourth largest television viewership genre is that of channels for children

Though most of the press it gets is for the sunny growth predictions it makes every year, the report on the media industry by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and KPMG released last month also points to some significant trends.

One is the advent of online and mobile platforms for television content over the past year. Zee, Star, Viacom18 and MSM India were the networks which launched multi-screen platforms, hoping to find other ways to monetize television content. MSM’s Sony Live offers current and previous shows and has free mobile applications, Zee Network’s Ditto TV offered 50 channels across broadcasters and saw 100,000 downloads since its launch in February 2012. This, too, has a free mobile application. But Star Network’s Star Player, which has short-form and long-form content drawing on current and previous shows, has paid mobile applications. Viacom TV, meanwhile, offers online platforms for Colors, MTV, NickIndia and Sonic Gang as a video on demand service.

The report says that with consumption of television content across platforms rising, the industry will soon need a measurement platform that integrates viewership across multiple media. But that is a premature concern. Judging by Facebook comments these platforms are getting, there are teething troubles aplenty for users at this point. Better broadband and the 4G services roll-out should help.

The second significant trend 2012 saw is that in a young country, media catering to this segment is coming into its own both in terms of viewership share and revenue generation. The fourth largest television viewership genre in the latest report, after Hindi and regional general entertainment and Hindi movies, is that of TV channels for children. That Indian homes are child-centred we know, but how significant this audience is becoming for the media and entertainment industry, we don’t. At 6.47% share of total viewership, programming targeted at children gets more eyeballs than regional movies, Hindi news, music and sports. That is something which leaps out of the latest report.

What is referred to as the “kids" segment in the industry saw a 17% growth in viewership in 2012; it also saw 20% growth in advertising the same year, compared with 5% in an earlier year. The increase in viewership is attributed partly to new launches—there isn’t one broad children’s segment any more; sub-segments within this genre now have entire channels targeting them. For instance, Disney Junior and Nick Junior launched last year were targeted specifically at pre-school children. Then, two new channels targeted at 4-11-year-olds were launched with an “edutainment" positioning—ZeeQ and Discovery Kids. The first three are only on digital platforms. When you get into programming sub-segments, you get into increasingly targeted advertising, hence the 15% leap in ad revenue last year.

Parents will be happy to pay for more niche channels for their offspring. When BBC closed CBeebies in 2012 (citing unviable carriage fee payouts as a reason, according to the Ficci-KPMG report), a bunch of distraught Delhi mothers apparently wrote to the channel asking for it to be resumed. We are only just getting to channels for children in regional languages (Sun TV’s Kochu TV started in 2011), and this too will grow post-digitization.

Meanwhile, in rural India, while the general demand is for cartoons according to mothers and fathers in many villages, they also say that their children will come home after play and watch the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, already dubbed in some Indian languages.

While children watch what parents watch in many homes, they increasingly control the remote at certain times of the day. Parents in different parts of rural and semi-urban India corroborate this. This has negative implications for the public service broadcaster. Doordarshan (DD) is dull and if the children are around, they don’t allow anyone to watch it in the evening when the farm programmes come on, men said at a discussion on television on the outskirts of Bhilai last January.

But in other parts of the country, such as coastal Andhra Pradesh, DD’s dullness makes it the channel of choice. DD’s audience research unit in that state says that one reason the terrestrial antenna survives in many villages is because the parents don’t want television to be a distraction at exam time! Not a great reason to survive.

In rural Delhi, they do it a little differently—everybody is on DTH and at exam time you simply do not recharge!

But basically, with digitization changing the game for all, as one of the experts quoted in the report says, the public broadcaster has to think in terms of a channel for children. Right now, DD National’s satellite channel manages barely 1% programming time for children.

Sevanti Ninan is a media critic, author and editor of the media watch website thehoot.org. She examines the larger
issues related to the media in a fortnightly column.

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