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NEW DELHI: Video streaming platforms are betting big on kids' content, especially, original animation IPs (intellectual properties) as children have been staying at home during the pandemic with schools shut. Earlier, the services banked primarily on properties already on television, streaming them along with linear TV.

While Telugu streaming service aha Video has introduced a sub-brand dedicated to children, Hungama is looking at bringing out one short video for children daily on its kids’ app while exploring long-form content.

Disney+ Hotstar has seen traction for its animated show The Legend of Hanuman while about 60% of Netflix’s members globally choose to watch kids and family content every month. Broadcasting company BBC puts up short videos and songs on its CBeebies YouTube channel while children's TV channel Sony YAY is looking at creating content for its VoD (video-on-demand) service SonyLIV in addition to supplying it to other platforms.

Overall, OTT services may have seen nearly 100% increase in viewership on kids' content during the pandemic, according to two media experts.

“Kids content on OTT will co-exist with television, like it has happened with other genres. Streaming platforms provide the convenience that appointment viewing doesn’t. Plus, with the kind of locks and controls that are in place, parents can be flexible about what they want their children to watch," said Ajit Thakur, CEO, aha Video who believes the company’s children's vertical can transition into a separate app in a few years.

The platform is bringing out a show called Maha Ganesh for the occasion of Vinayak Chaturthi this September and will follow it up with another show on Children’s Day and a live action film for Christmas.

With YouTube videos, parents have been increasingly stressed about the kind of advertising the free medium often throws up, Mehul Gupta, co-founder and CEO at SoCheers, an independent digital agency said. “Even on TV, there is no control on ads. So in that sense, OTTs provide a safe environment and that need was identified three years ago and libraries are being ramped up now," Gupta added.

Further, unlike TV that put out one kind of content for children of all ages, OTT platforms are distinguishing between different cohorts, such as the 2-5 group, 5-10, teenagers and so on, said Soumini Sridhara Paul, senior vice-president, Hungama Digital Media.

Most major OTT platforms, whether subscription based or advertising-led, have begun to understand the requirement for a well-rounded library which caters to every mood and member of the family, including kids, said Anish Mehta, CEO at animation company Cosmos Maya.

While the growth in OTT viewership in India, is mostly in the urban tier-one and tier-two markets, kids' content enjoys a special dual presence, and can be launched on both mediums (TV and OTT) simultaneously, said Mehta, adding the audience in both cases is almost nearly exclusive to the medium of choice, and unduplicated viewership is achievable.

Phil Hardman, senior vice-president and general manager, Asia, BBC Studios agreed that kids' viewing on OTT was already increasing and the lockdowns and challenges of the whole family being at home have accelerated the growth. The company has seen this trend in India and in other territories across Asia. 

"For many kids, consuming content on digital has become a daily habit. Notwithstanding, linear TV continues to be an important way to bring content to our audience and our CBeebies channel in India and rest of Asia has performed very well during the last year," Hardman said.

Their content is available on digital platforms such as CBeebies website and social media sites such as YouTube and Facebook. Content on CBeebies YouTube channel is in the form of short clips and songs from titles. “This allows kids to get to know our shows and they can come to the linear channel for the complete episodes. Having a complementary digital and linear media approach will help us gather the widest reach possible for our content and channel," Hardman added.

Leena Lele Dutta, business head at Sony Pictures Networks for kids’ genre said kids content remains the stronghold of broadcast television where children have made friends with characters over the years but the company is getting into IP creation agnostic to the platform. It is looking at developing properties to pitch across OTT platforms. “The challenge with television also is that TV measurement is quite skewed towards boys so you can only focus on certain narratives," Dutta added.

The kids genre contributes to about 4-5% of the total TV ad spends, according to Sujata Dwibedy, group trading director, Amplifi India, dentsu.“The Indian animation industry has been growing by 18-20% in the last two to three years. However, monetization remains a challenge. There is appetite for more high-quality animation and content which should be at par with international content. The ad revenue is disproportionately lower than investment in content," Dwibedy said

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