OTTv Kids and Animation Summit 2018 sheds light on the future of digital platforms for kids and homegrown IPs

Indian broadcasters have explored myriad ways to create animated content that wins the hearts of children. The OTTV Kids and Animation Summit 2018, that began with paying homage to the late veteran comic book writer Stan Lee, saw various sessions surrounding the rise of kids-specific digital platforms and animated content. Prefacing the summit, was the keynote session delivered by Viacom18 kids cluster content head SVP Anu Sikka with a theme of the local IP journey of Indian kids entertainment. Followed by an insightful presentation by BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council India) partnerships head Elbert Dsilva, who shared valuable statistics on the viewership of animated content over the years, unveiling the kind of content and themes that are majorly watched. He further informed that kids between two to 14 years account for 20 per cent of total TV impressions. The next session, moderated by Dave Media COO and  OTTv Summits founder Deepak Ramsurrun shed light upon the importance of home-grown characters citing the example of the popular homegrown IP Chota Bheem and various other homegrown characters that have managed to penetrate the market. Commenting on the need of a home-grown character that can also strike a chord globally, Punnaryug Artvision founder Ashish Kulkarni stated that he has never sold an IP as he values the spirit of creating homegrown and preserving them. Kulkarni expressed hope that there will be many more homegrown characters that will also appeal to the global audience in the years to come. A presentation by Limelight Networks senior director India and SE Asia Jaheer Abbas elaborated on enhancing the experience of audience with respect to real time live video broadcasting with their advanced video delivery system. An interesting session ensued on how Little Singham is making it big unfolded with Discovery Kids Network head of content Uttam Pal Singh speaking about his journey and the decision to collaborate with Reliance animation for Little Singham. In response to the question of how a character is conceptualised, Reliance Animation COO Tejonidhi Bhandare explained, “When we carry out a research internally, there are two characters that come out very strongly-  one is a doctor and another is a policeman. Children connect with these two professions very easily. We chose to go with the policeman as that already had more brand value.” Recounting his experience at the Discovery Kids headquarters at London, Singh said, I remember how we showed the upcoming tele-feature film titled Little Singham Chala London where Little Singham is tasked with finding the stolen Kohinoor diamond to clear his name. The people over there were totally amused by this story. I think this is how a homegrown IP can manage to go global.” The next presentation by Cloudflare head of solutions engineering (India) Gaurab Mallawat highlighted the intersection of security and speed that is required for improving the internet experience. Session on homegrown IPs pathway to international audience saw a healthy discussion about the strategies that need to be deployed in order to feel the pulse of international audience.  Green Gold Animation chief strategy officer Srinivas Chilakapudi said that the outreach of Chota Bheem is attributable to the purity and passion with which it was designed and South American market is a good field to plough if one wishes to aim for international market. Expressing concern over the present scenario, Hungama Kids original content Artist Aloud VP Soumini Paul said, “We are in serious need of characters and stories that can cater to both parents and kids. UP was one such movie that could move the audience across age-groups. We need to cover the entire landscape of India before we can think of going global.” The session was followed by a presentation by Centroid India director Parth Shah, which highlighted a nifty concept of bringing characters to life through motion capture. A panel discussion on creating interactive and engaging experiences through gaming saw an enthusiastic exchange of ideas with panelists recounting the first game they had played. Kisane Entertainment chief marketing officer Pranab Punj pithily shared his observation about the Indian market. Punj said, “My learning has been that India has always been a gaming market. Earlier on, parents were wary of gaming and didn’t approve of gaming for kids. Zapak couldn’t find much traction as a result of it. India has not done a good job in originality. Audience needs more localised and regionalised experience.” Remarking on the current state of gaming, GoPhygital COO and co-founder Ninad Chhaya added, “We need to take content from the existing ecosystem and go global with it. For example, why can’t the script writer of Bahubali join forces with a coder at Infosys and create a path-breaking game? I say, It’s only a matter of time before homegrown goes global.” It was followed by an enlightening presentation by Animation International India director Nitin Kalra, apprising the creators of what he calls OPM which abbreviates to other people’s money meaning allowing the use of your intellectual property to design, manufacture and distribute. Shedding light on the profitability of licensing through a series of informative slides, Kalra informed, “The new Indian kids are born in the malls and learn with gadgets. They want their favourite cartoon characters on their stuff.” Panel discussion addressing the challenges of crafting stories to groom, educate and entertain began with an exercise in nostalgia as the panelist remembered the cartoons they loved to watch as children. Sharing her thoughts on what makes a good story, screen writer, lyricist and children’s author Pooja Lulla said, “Characters are crucial for the structure of the story. They take the story forward. Then what matters is the setting of the story. Also the timing and location influence your character majorly. The message is also very important. Like Stan Lee conveyed the iconic message that with great powers come great responsibilities through Spiderman. INOX Leisure filmmaker and chief marketing officer Saurabh Verma shared, “Emphasis should be laid on purity of the character, not merchandising. Christopher Nolan took up the flawed character of Batman and added vulnerabilities and emotion. We shouldn’t create characters based on researches. The whole system of research is flawed to begin with. We should reject the formulaic approach” The last panel carried the discussion forward on the prospects of kids content on digital platforms. Raising concerns about the lack of protection of kids from obscene and profane content on certain platforms, panelists spoke about the ways in which parents can choose which content is fit for their kids. Nirvana Digital CEO Pinakin Thakkar shared, “The amount of time spent by kids on digital platform is high. Applications can’t recognise if they are kids or not. That’s why Youtube came up with kids application.” Alluding to the algorithmic flaw in the YouTube’s model, Ockypocky founder Amit Agarwal said, “Their algorithm are their nemesis and they might face a shut-down if they don’t change their fundamental strategies” Concluding the discussion, Thakkar drew attention towards various other OTT kids platforms. While YouTube mainly provides general short-form content, there are other digital platforms still evolving strategies outside the television.