The Nickelodeon franchise entertains millions of young fans across India through its endearing characters and immersive stories. Through the last year, the franchise has designed many category-defining initiatives that have engaged with kids, brought a smile to their faces, and kept their spirits high in these trying times, thereby reinforcing its eminence as a responsible kids and family entertainment broadcaster. Nickelodeon continues to hold the leadership mantle with the flagship channels Nick and Sonic being the No. 1 & the No. 2 kids’ entertainment channels in the category.
This summer comes with many challenges for kids as they continue social distance, be indoors, and safe at home. The need of the hour, therefore, is to inspire kids to stay positive and happy, despite these difficult times. Nickelodeon is hence all set to bring summertime fun to the homes of kids and give the many unforgettable and precious experiences with #NicktoonsKaSummerDose – A fabulous content line up of all new episodes, movies, host of fun activities, and innovative engagements that will keep kids happy and engaged while they stay safe at home.
Nickelodeon is now 7 years and year-on-year the No 1 channel in the Kid’s category and now for the past 6-7 weeks, Sonic is No2. The market share is close to 30-34% depending week on week and a new international show in collaboration with Nickelodeon UK and would be launching at the beginning of next year and it will be the first in India. It is a big one as the entire production of the show is being done in India.
In conversation with Anu Sikka, Head – Content, Programming and Strategy, Kids Cluster at Viacom18 on the challenges faced during the pandemic, new content, and is No 1 for the past 7 years…
It has been a difficult year, how have you curated content to keep the children busy and happy in this gloom?
Last year the country went into lockdown for us it became a double challenge as animation is a long-drawn process unlike a live-action even when it as completely shut but once it opened up you could turn around very fast but not so in animation. It became a double challenge to make sure that the content kept coming, but the good thing that happened in animation was that the studio’s adapted to the situation very fast and work got shifted to people’s houses. The biggest challenge for us was how do we continue to churn out newer content because while kids were at home, we had this audience totally dedicated to watching TV as they didn’t have much of an option because stepping out of the home was not really an option at that point of time and for that matter even now. As a broadcaster, the biggest challenge turned out to be churning out newer content that something that we did and we was extremely successful in doing. We continued to do it and we never stopped not just developing new shows, and at the same time continued to churn out new episodes for our most successful IP’s ‘Pinakin and Happy the Bhoot Bhandus’.
Another challenge was the language dubbing as we are present in eight regional languages and how we managed everything and to get going. The challenge was how you bring all the voice-over artists together as studios were shut, making that typical juggad which we are so good at and at the same time ensuring that nobody was at risk. We had to tell the voice-over artist to do it from home, while some of them do have a setup in their homes but the majority of the artist don’t. This increased the challenge when it came to post-production, as it required much more cleaning up of the voice as compared to doing it in a studio that is very professional. These were the things that became a massive challenge for us but I have to say that we really came through with flying colors. Yes, the studios and the channel worked day and day out to make sure that the work doesn’t stop and we were able to offer kids something new to watch every day where their world got confined to their home.
We did launch our brand new “Happy the BhootBhandus’ our latest IP in the last quarter of 2020 and today the show continues to be in the top 5 in the category week on week, we are extremely proud of that we did manage to, despite lockdown, few delays, and few initial hiccups but it did not stop us from launching our latest IP. Of course, that presented a separate challenge for the Marketing team as we had to change the entire marketing strategy, there was nothing we could do in the outdoor and much of it and had to be innovated on how do you reach out to a maximum number of children in the digital platform, whether it is social media whether it is our own channel and our own network through Voot. Yes innovation was the key and that was basically the challenge, we had to come up with innovative ideas with this absolutely unusual circumstance that nobody was used to, nobody had a thought that our lives would come down to this particular point but we did manage to never let the work stop and we made sure that kids had something new to enjoy and that we are able to entertain them day and day out. I think the result is there for everyone to see and we remain the No 1 brand for 7 consecutive years.
Children were happy that probably this year they would go to school but that’s also dashed as the second wave has hit us. What would be the role of content now and what is the one differentiated USP that you are doing that is keeping them away from all this depression and gloom?
That is what it is if you watch any of our shows, that is the power of the world of animation; it takes your imagination to a point where sometimes even where your dreams do not go. That is what we can do, that is what we endeavor to ensure that kids get those characters every day, a show like MotuPatlu was launched sometime in 2012, that child he or she was 8 or 9 years old today are out of their teens. These are the characters they have grown up with even during the normal circumstances these shows were the stress busters for them and we are insuring that they continue to get those nice wonderful cheerful stories associated with these characters. We are continuing to produce new content and the trends these days is that kids are hungry for new shows, for new characters and we are trying our very best to continue coming up with new shows and new characters, which hopefully we will do and continue to do so that the children can look forward to some cheerfulness every day even in this gloom.
What are some of the new shows and movies that you have lined up for the summer?
The MotuPatlu movies are on, we premiered ‘Rudra’ and it is No 2, in the category as per the BARC ratings. Also, we are launching ‘Shiva’ soon. We have full-length movies which are 90 minutes and the special Mini Movies which are 45 minutes. We are continuing to produce both and in the summer we will be launching them. We are coming up with new episodes of all our flagship shows like MotuPatlu, Rudra, Golmaal, then we have Pinaki and Happy the BhootBandus which is right now is topping the chart and take Sonic to the no 2 positions for the past 6 weeks. All I can say is very soon we will be coming up with something new to keep the kids entertained.
What would your major focus on in regards to the content in 2021?
Yes, we are hoping that we will continue to expand our reach; continue to bring in a newer audience. Perhaps till a few days back they were more into the movies and the GEC’s, but one thing that we genuinely feel that we will be able to bring in the family audience. Till yesterday it was only the kids who watched the animation shows and were dominated by the kid’s audience, but today because of the environment around us and the circumstances, we do not have the luxury of stepping out and family time is becoming more and more important. While we will continue to endeavor to bring in more kids audience but what we will probably get is more family time being spent on these kids’ channels.
This is something that I believe as a programmer and looking at the circumstances and listening to people, spending that quality time while at home also while everybody is at home at the same time, but at the same time everybody is busy doing certain things, the parents are obviously doing their job, while the children are busy with their online schooling and all that stuff. The time that binds the entire family together, obviously news and GEC is not something which is not of interest to the kids as they tend to feel it is for the adults, except that the parents have to compromise by spending that quality time in front of the TV where everybody can have a laugh.
All the kids especially the animation shows which we are churning out are the stress buster, they were even in normal circumstances and this time they become even bigger stress buster and I think the family can come together and have more family viewership rather than just the kids. Maybe the parents able to take out that Sunday morning time where everybody comes together and we invariably telecast TV movies at that point in time. Even something like watching a series like MotuPatlu, one set of parents have grown up reading that comic book so when they see that in animated avatar and when they see their child watching it and enjoying it I think it stops parents saying why not do this together for a change because this something that parents can enjoy rather children enjoying content for an adult is a far bigger challenge compared to parents enjoying the content with the children.
The Indian mindset has always been that Animation whether movies or a series is for children but that mindset is slowly and surely changing, today the young parent who was a child who was in let us say in 96 – 97 when the first animation channel had launched in India and today he or she would be young parents themselves. They do not have the inhibition of, I don’t mind watching animation myself as they have grown up with that, they do not have hesitation as much as like let us say a 50-60-year-old person as they did not have the exposure of animation at a young age, rather they did not grow up with that so then the perception is Oh animation is for children it’s not for us. Today the young parents have grown up very differently and they have grown up with full-fledged animation they would not hesitate in saying I don’t mind watching animation content with my child because I have done the same thing as a kid myself. Yes, the perception is changing and with the circumstances prevailing today, we need a stress buster. There isn’t any better content than animation that we produce for the kids. It can be a good stress buster for children and parents to spend time together and increase the bonding factor. Unfortunately, this is the reality.