Indian kids are swarmed with a volley of international channels to watch such as Nickelodeon, Disney, Cartoon Network, Discovery Kids and Animax. Over the years, they have changed from pumping international content into the country to adapting flavours to suit Indian taste buds. In this race to conquer the kids’ minds, one of India’s earliest broadcasters has outshone the others in the southern markets.
The Sun Network and its four kids’ channels for the state of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh (Seemandhra & Telangana) have held the bastion in catering to the kids of the regional languages and also the only one to do so. We caught up with the lady captaining the ship of the kids’ cluster, Kavitha Jaubin to get to know how the channels’ Chutti TV (Tamil), Kochu TV (Malayalam), Chintu TV (Kannada) and Kushi TV (Telugu) study the kids to program the day.
“Hand picking content for children is a very challenging task that calls for a smart strategy. While stepping into the shoes of a child is fundamental, there is also the need to be responsible while identifying wholesome content for them. If television-viewing experience for children has to be a thorough entertainment, it cannot happen without meticulous planning,” says Sun TV kids channels cluster head Kavitha Jaubin. Accordingly, the network avoids content that has violence, hurts the sentiments of any section of population or that forces parents to scrutinise the content.
Even though the channel is a local dominator, much of its content is sourced from other countries, but Kavitha says that this isn’t a conscious decision and the mandate is to identify potential content from Indian producers. “We have acquired titles from Big Animation (Little Krishna), Shemaroo, Amar Chita Katha and the stories have added a different flavour to our channels; least to mention-thoroughly enjoyed by our audience,” she exclaims. While choosing content, language or culture is not a barrier.
Premium shows that are largely comedy titles are common to the four channels but the other in-house game and chat shows are locally made and distributed. The only difference is the time slot. “While content is acquired for all languages in common, the launch and treatment is reliant on the respective audience’s inclination,” adds Kavitha.
The part where the network lags behind is in the production of original animated content. “The only genre of production that we have not engaged ourselves in is animation. The channel has been enjoying consistent ratings with acquired content with TV viewing audience associating many titles with our kids cluster. Our plans for owning titles haven’t translated into a full-fledged activity but we are looking forward to it. An IP will surely be a new and exciting turf to test,” highlights Kavitha.
Recent additions to the acquired portfolio include The New Adventures of Lassie, Beet Party, Hannah Montana and Bommi & Friends. What the channel does execute internally are game shows, chat shows, standup comedy and family shows which are given a great amount of creativity, time and investment. “This has evolved as our forte and we would capitalise on these learning experiences in creating an exclusive property hopefully in the near future,” says Kavitha.
Programming changes on a weekly basis depending on ratings. Ones that earn average ratings are replaced with new ones and monitored for results. Titles are bought from other markets either through known licensors or new ones, on an exclusive basis for two years. Mornings attract kids aged eight to 10 while afternoons take up the preschoolers. The evening time is dedicated to kids who are 9 to 14 along with parents.
While choosing animated shows, no distinction is made in the type of art. “Our channel has always been lauded for encouraging variety of content and we will continue promoting new cartoons irrespective of the technique of production,” boasts Kavitha.
The channel doesn’t just stop there. It also has a mascot in ‘Singoo the lion’ for which it has created interesting merchandise for its audience that include: mugs, tattoos, T-shirts, customised flasks, pen-drives, key chains and stickers, which are sent across as gifts to the audience.
While Kavitha agreed to the lack of local content, she said the network was open to receiving content from local producers. “There are latent talents in terms of animation creators in our country and it would be a respite for broadcasters to accommodate this locally produced content to break the monotony of animation content aired routinely,” she states.
With mushrooming channels, kids now have myriad options and Kavitha says that today kids bring an entire family with them to the channel. “With parents in the scene, there is a steady paradigm shift in offering mere entertaining content to inclusion of education content as well,” she says. Another challenge is that due to exposure to general entertainment channel content, the kids channels now have to outdo them as well.
Although it faces stiff competition from other broadcasters, it is unperturbed about it. “We have over 8 channels as our competitors and it is a learning each day. The competition is stiff but we have clear strategies that help us combat it,” she ends.