Children’s Entertainment Media: Recent Trends
The children’s entertainment media in India is dominated by global media houses such as Warner Media, Walt Disney, Sony, Discovery, and Viacom. Most of these are present in the linear TV space but are gradually entering the digital domain as well.
During the pandemic, children’ media grew dramatically as kids became confined to their homes. The share of Kids genre in total TV viewership increased from 6.4% in 2019 to 7.4% in 2020. The viewership of the genre registered a 27% growth in that year, as children spent 74 billion minutes/week on TV during 2020, up from 58 billion minutes/week in 2019. The increased view time extended to unconventional time slots, with non- prime-time (NPT) viewing amongst children growing 31% y-o-y in 2020. Interestingly, the demand for kids’ content during unconventional time slots on TV continued even as the first lockdown was lifted, and classes were resumed online.
Growth in the consumption of children’s content was visible across both, linear and digital domains. Discovery Kids witnessed a 35-40% growth in viewership in 2020. Nickelodeon registered a viewership of 50 million every week since the start of the pandemic. The viewership of kids’ titles on Netflix increased by more than 100% in India in 2020, over the corresponding period from last year, and the animation segment alone grew by 10% over the same period.
Taking note of the rising viewership in the Kids genre, a lot of media companies launched dedicated children’s programming during the pandemic. In April 2020, Zee Entertainment’s digital arm, ZEE5 launched an in-app section, Zee5 Kids, with 4000+ hours of entertainment content in 9 languages. In 2021, Discovery India also introduced a genre devoted to kids on its OTT platform Discovery+. Within the same year regional video streaming platform, aha, launched aha Kids, a sub-brand marking its foray into children’s programming in August. Global animation and content production company, Toonz Media Group partnered with Airtel to launch its global OTT platform for kids and family entertainment, MyToonz, in India with over 1,500 hours of content. Japanese gaming and animation company Akatsuki launched Kumarba, an edutainment YouTube channel, targeted at pre-schoolers. The Tokyo-based company which already has investments in the country through its Akatsuki Entertainment Technology (AET) Fund, plans to use the channel to gather consumer insights and chart out plans for its entry into India’s children’s media sector.
Increased viewership in the kids’ genre also led to more demand for fresh content. Traditionally the content slate for children was planned around summer vacations and festival periods. However, since the pandemic, due to children spending more time at home, media companies have started to curate longer content pipelines which can be rolled out throughout the year to keep children engaged and interested. Cartoon Network and Pogo executed six new local shows in India during the pandemic. SONY YAY doubled up its content plan from 300-350 episodes a year to producing 500-550 episodes in 2021. Voot Kids signed 2 major content deals in 2021. First deal with the Indian animation studio Green Gold Animation, involved 21 digital exclusive movies of Bheem. The second deal signed with Japan’s The Pokemon Company, consisted of streaming rights for 21 Pokemon films and over 10,000 minutes of anime series episodic content.
Rise of Homegrown Content
Amid this growing demand for content, Indian animation studios have emerged as the backbone of the domestic children’s media sector, creating locally relevant and engaging animation content for kids. International media companies active in the kids’ entertainment segment in India have gradually realized the value of homegrown content in creating sustainable franchise and have come to focus on local storylines and characters, drawing inspiration from Bollywood, Indian TV shows, comic books, mythology, and history. In 2020, nearly 8 out of 10 animated kids’ shows on TV were homegrown shows with Indian characters. Localization of international content through dubbing doesn’t not always work. On the other hand, familiarity with stories and character rooted in the local social and cultural milieu makes the content relatable for kids and helps media companies to instil loyalty amongst the young audience towards their franchise.
Internet Adoption Amongst Kids
Viewership and demand for content will further increase in the Kids segment as internet penetration and adoption grows beyond major Indian cities and towns. This will bring more opportunities in the Kids segment outside the linear TV space, which currently is the number one choice for 97% of children in India for accessing kids content.
According to Kantar’s 2020 ICUBE Report, 38% of the school-going children category (15 years of age or below) has shown promising growth in internet usage, with entertainment as one of the driving forces behind the adoption. The Ormax Brand Trust Survey 2021, also highlighted children’s growing affinity towards and comfort with digital media brands in general. According to the survey, which evaluated 44 media brands across TV, digital, social media, gaming, streaming and film exhibition, the top 5 positions were occupied by digital brands ahead of legacy brands in the TV space, which is a very recent trend. In addition, digital brands also occupied 8 out of top 10 rankings in the media landscape for older kids aged 10-14 years. Increasing digital adoption amongst kids presents new opportunities for Kids entertainment media. OTT services will focus more on kids’ viewership in the future, which at present remains mostly concentrated in the urban tier-I & II markets on their platforms. In fact, many OTT players acknowledge that the Kids genre remains underserved and could be crucial in expanding their subscriber base further. There might also emerge more dedicated Kids OTT platforms in future.
Demand for Multilingual Content
Increasing digital adoption across India in general, is also creating demand for local-language content, which is also reflected in demand for kids’ content. The first dedicated kids’ channel was launched in 1995 in India, with the entry of Warner Media’s Cartoon Network. However, even after more than two decades, Hindi and English are still the dominant languages within the kids’ genre. Hindi accounts for the largest share (71%) of viewership on Kids TV channels, followed by English (21%), Telegu (3%), Tamil (2%), Malayalam (2%) and Kannada (1%). This skewed preference for Hindi and English is still leaving out potential audiences. However, this is beginning to change now. Recent entrants in the kids’ genre are bringing more languages under their fold to cater to regional markets and this is true for players in both, digital and linear TV space. In April 2021, Telegu media network, Eenadu Television, announced its entry into kids’ space with the launch of ETV Bal Bharat channel in 12 Indian languages besides English, thus becoming the 1st player in Kids universe to do so. In the same year, Warner Media, the pioneer in the domestic Kids genre in India, also announced plans to launch its channels, POGO and Cartoon Network, in 5 additional languages to reach more homes.
Kids entertainment in India is poised for growth in the coming years. Companies stand to gain a lot in the segment if they can harness the growing internet profile of their young audiences and their hunger for exciting, localized content that grabs their attention and keeps them hooked.
- BARC’ India Yearbook: The Year After 2019