Kids shows draw record viewers but fail to cheer advertisers

The total viewership of kids programming grew 40% from pre-Covid weeks earlier this year to the Covid weeks going by BARC data which is way above overall TV viewing growth at 32%.
Motu Patlu, Chhota Bheem, Doraemon, and Shin-chan are having a great time.

Ever since the lockdown began on March 25, kids television has been booming. Of the top 10 kids networks almost all – Viacom 18, WarnerMedia, Disney, Sony Yay, Discovery Kids, and Sun Network – have seen a rise of 20-100 per cent in viewership. The total viewership of kids programming grew 40 per cent from pre-Covid weeks earlier this year to the Covid weeks going by Broadcast Audience Research Council data. That is way above overall TV viewing growth at 32 per cent.

“During summer the category grows by 18-20 per cent but it has doubled during the lockdown,” said Nina Elavia Jaipuria, head, Hindi mass entertainment and kids TV network, Viacom18. Its kids channels include Nickelodeon, Nick Junior, and Nickelodeon Sonic. “To capitalise on this growth, we preponed two launches from May to April — Bandbudh Aur Budbak and new episodes of Chhota Bheem,” said Abhishek Dutta, senior director and network head, Cartoon Network & Pogo, South Asia, WarnerMedia Entertainment Network.

“The surge in the summer is different because not all children have holidays at the same time. This time, everyone is home at the same time,” he said. This means that not only has the number of children watching kids shows has gone up from 43 million to 53 million, time spent, too, has increased from 76 minutes to almost 90 minutes.

That is true for online, too. Chu Chu TV’s bouquet of 10 channels, the largest such network in the world, has seen subscribers go up from 57.7 million before the lockdown to 62.5 million after 50 days. Voot Kids, Viacom18’s streaming video brand, has seen the number of people signing up to subscribe rise six fold compared to February, according to Saugato Bhowmik, business head, Voot Kids. The revenue upside is obvious — Voot Kids is priced at Rs 800 a year. This, however, is where the story begins to unravel.

Voot Kids is one of the few subscription-driven brands. Most online brands like Chu Chu TV are ad-driven. Ditto for TV channels. For this genre, summer is the big season. “We start gearing for summer from February. In April, May, June we usually put our best forward. We had planned a lot of stuff — new stories for Shiva, Motu Patlu, Rudra on Nick, and for Pakdam Pakdai on Sonic — when the lockdown happened,” said Elavia Jaipuria.

As a result, while other genres are relying on repeats, kids is replete with fresh content. The biggest surge in viewership, a captive audience, and fresh programming — this seems like the perfect time to take rates up in a category that has forever been under-indexed. Most genres get advertising in line with their contribution to viewership. For instance, since general entertainment gets more than 52 per cent of all TV viewership, it gets 52 per cent of the Rs 32,000-crore that advertisers spent on television in 2019. Kids programming, however, gets about 2 per cent of total ad spend, though its share of viewership has been around 7 per cent.

That is because kids are not seen as primary purchasers, only as influencers. In 2019, advertisers spent just about Rs 600 crore on kids programming. And, this surge doesn’t seem to have changed their mind. “Advertising across the board remains challenged. Increased viewership has not converted to business,” said Dutta.

But there are three trends that offer hope. One, there “is the massive growth of viewership in the 9 am to 2 pm slot. That is a significant trend going forward in the summer”, according to Elavia Jaipuria. The usual prime time for kids is late afternoon and early evening. Two, is co-viewing, which brought in 28-30 per cent of the growth in total impressions or viewership. That means young parents or siblings are watching with kids. That opens up the possibility of non-traditional advertisers coming in.

And three, is the sheer width of content being consumed across television and online. “Earlier, the top 20-25 shows on TV were strongly referenced in Voot Kids. Now, it is wider. Pre-school content (Peppa Pig, Marsha, Dora) has jumped up, and the fun learning shows such as Sid the Science Kid have gone up,” said Bhowmik.

All those are monetisable trends. Maybe the party could continue once the lockdown ends and advertiser sentiment picks up.


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