What platforms, content creators and media planners had to say about the business of kids' content on digital platforms.
Some announced a standalone app, while some added specialised offerings to enhance their portfolio but what is most important is to see that all of the online video platforms are 'seriously kidding'. Why? Toddlers can't swipe their cards to subscribe nor can they buy a product ver the counter. So, what is it that the toddlers can give in return?
Google launched a standalone kids app, called 'YouTube Kids', Viacom18's online platform Voot forayed to Voot Kids, Sony LIV coined their kids offering as LIV Kids, nexGTv too, decided to have a standalone kids app and to follow a subscription based revenue model. Not only have the Indian players, kids garnered the attention of foreign giants too. Amazon Prime signed a deal with Green Gold animations, the creator of popular Indian series 'Chhota Bheem', 'Mighty Raju', to have the titles on the SVOD platforms.
"Times they are a changing" and indeed they are, kids today learn to swipe first and walk later, skipping ad is just a stimuli reaction for them, nursery rhymes, bed time stories or when parents are busy socialising you find kids sitting in a corner and dancing to the tune of 'Chhota Bheem' or 'Mighty Raju' or a show of their liking. This enhances the time spend and is one of the primary reasons for Sony LIV to get into kids' content, believes Uday Sodhi, executive vice-president and head - digital business at Sony Pictures Networks India.
"Your offering today is incomplete without kids' content, and if they like the characters; are extremely loyal and like to spend plenty of time on the platform. For us, it's just the beginning and an important business avenue," Sodhi asserts.
LIV Kids has nursery rhymes and kids' shows across different languages for toddlers. LIV Kids is a part of Sony LIV and is not an app by itself. "If you see the global markets, all players have one single app where they have multiple content offering. Often it happens, you land on the platform for a particular offering and then eventually end up exploring the catalogue," says Sodhi. But he does not rule out the roll out of a standalone app, "Having said so, if in the future we see the need of an app dedicated to kids we will go ahead and launch it. At this stage, we don't think it is necessary."
Abhesh Verma, chief operating officer, nexGTv believes, a standalone kids' app is an extreme necessity, "Imagine the kids landing onto content that is inappropriate, a possibility when you do not have a standalone app," he says.
Even ads are an obstruction believes Verma and says, "We are a subscription based platform, we believe the SVOD model would be a sustainable one in the long run, also advertisements may have content that is not relevant to the kids and thus becomes an issue of what is suitable and what is not."
"At this stage advertising is a larger model for sure," contradicts Gaurav Gandhi, chief operating officer, Voot, "and that is because there are other costs involved in the process. Data is expensive, smartphones come with a cost, and payment mechanisms continue to stay complicated. Having said so digital is a model where you can have both SVOD and AVOD options. For now we are an ad based platform and I think this is the best possible option at this stage," he adds.
Digital enables platforms to experiment and explore and that is an add-on for brands feels Gandhi, "We are now creating content with characters popular among kids for brands. This is something you can only do on a digital platform. Also, when kids get attached to a character, they visit again and again; giving brands the opportunity to leverage this loyalty," he says.
At this stage, about 10 to 15 per cent of Voot's total viewership comes from kids' content. Brands such as Hershey's, Colgate, Amazon, and Kindle are among the platform's frequent partners informs Gandhi, "For brands working with us on a large scale, we will explore different opportunities to maximise the return," adds he.
Not only platforms but content creators too, are seriously kidding these days. Amazon Prime recently cracked a one-of-a-kind deal with Green Gold Animations. Green Gold Animations' titles 'Chhota Bheem' and 'Mighty Raju' are aired on Turner's kids' channel - Pogo. Turner and Voot has a content sharing deal but Green Gold owned the IPR of its titles and went ahead and gave the streaming rights to Amazon Prime.
"At this moment point, online platforms are focusing only on content that is already there, as it is too early for them to create new content. But this has opened up an alternative revenue gate for library content," says Rajiv Chilaka, founder and MD Green Gold Animations.
Home video, (CDs and DVDs) used to be substantial contributor for animation studios but in last few years it lost its charm, leaving satellite as the only source of revenue. "That is now changing," says Chilaka, he adds "BARC India does not measure 1-4 years category and hence creators of content catering to that age group was finding it very difficult to survive. Now the digital evolution is a respite for them too."
Digital can become the primary force behind the growth of the animation industry in India which in last four years went through a lean patch, believes Chilaka.
Media planning experts too seem to be observing the scenario closely. Rajiv Dingra, founder and chief executive officer WATConsult believes that parents' growing trust in leaving the phone or tablet with their kids makes it a fast growing industry.
But then he thinks catching the attention of a fickle minded kid could be one of the toughest challenges for the platforms foraying into kids offering. "Kids are one of the most fickle audiences in the mix today, if they don't find the content attractive they will move away from it instantaneously. The kids of today are different from the kids of yesterday and that is something the platforms will always have to remember," he adds.
"When evaluating content for kids, brands need to ask two questions. First, will the mother of the kid/s approve of this content; second, is the content good enough to keep kids hooked on," he adds.
"'Catch them Young' is every marketing person's eternal mantra. Given high penetration among kids of mobile phones , this is not surprising," says Sam Balsara, chairman and MD of Madison World
As per the latest available census, 39 per cent of India's population consists of children below 14 years of age. Now it remains to be seen how many can afford to watch online and how many of then actually like what they see.