Turner International India’s brand Cartoon Network recently turned 20, while its popular brand Pogo turned 11. IMPACT caught up with Team Turner to find out how the brands have evolved, the trends in kids programming and why mainstream advertisers see value in kids channels
BY SIMRAN SABHERWAL
Growing up has its share of ups and downs, and it has been an eventful journey so far for Cartoon Network, the flagship channel of Turner International, which recently completed two decades of entertaining young audiences. To counter rising competition, the network had launched its local Indianized sibling, Pogo in 2004. Looking back, Krishna Desai, Executive Director and Network Head- Kids, South Asia, Turner International India Pvt. Ltd says, “The 18-month period from 2013 to the third-quarter of 2014 was a big high as two channels from our stable in the kids genre were Number 1 and Number 2. In addition, Cartoon Network is the Number 1 international channel in the APAC region across genres.”
However, since then the Turner channels in India have slipped down the pecking order. According to Week 26 of BARC data, Nick shares the top spot with Pogo TV and Cartoon Network rounds up the top three (All India: NCCS All: 4 - 14 years: Week 26: Individuals: C&S 1Lac+).
Among the three channels in its stable - Cartoon Network, Pogo and Toonami (launched in February 2015) - a clear differentiation is visible between the brands. In addition to nuanced differences, Cartoon Network scores on the naughtiness quotient, and is clearly skewed towards boys aged 8 to 9 years and is home to the best of international animation. Pogo, on the other hand, is gender neutral and targeted to younger children aged around 6 years, and being a local brand, resonates with local audiences. Meanwhile, Toonami is targeted at older boys, aged 10-15 years, and the channel is home to animation with a focus on action, adventure and superhero content.
The missing piece in Turner’s block of channels, when compared to competition, is a pre-school channel to take on Nick Jr and Disney Junior, but the network is not looking to enter this space anytime soon.
Localization = Being Relevant
With a focus on being relevant, the first step was dubbing international content into the local languages – Hindi, Tamil and Telugu - and then moving to producing home-grown shows. A huge success came with the animated comedy adventure series, Chhota Bheem, which has been on air on Pogo since 2008. Today, 80% of content on Cartoon Network is international while 80% of Pogo’s content is local. Commenting on whether Indian content can travel abroad, Desai says, “Chhota Bheem has travelled to half a dozen countries and it has got a mixed response.”
The Moolah Factor
While the 2014 general elections proved to be a boon for the media sector, one genre that missed out on the windfall was the kids genre. The category continues to be under-indexed. The kids genre garners about 7.3% of the viewership base, and gets about 3.7% of the Adex (down from 4.1% in 2013), which means that more than 15 channels in this genre compete for the Adex of a little over Rs 500 crore. According to Juhi Ravindranath, Vice-President, Ad Sales, South Asia, Turner International India Pvt. Ltd, “The viewership is outpacing ad spends. So while the genre and revenue are growing, viewership is growing faster. This is completely mismatched.” Despite this, Turner has seen substantial ad rate hikes and overall growth is in excess of 15%. The other mismatch is in the profile of advertisers. Kids genre advertisers and brands contribute only 5 to 6% of the total ad base. This has led to non-kids genre advertisers being targeted and today, the Network derives 60% of business revenue from non-kids brands. Advertisers also recognize the fact that kids today are huge influencers. In this context, multiple non kids brands’ creative messaging is tuned to kids. Says Ravindranath, “The biggest success so far has been to get FMCG brands to start buying into kids’ channels. We have also seen non-traditional categories, insurance, e-commerce and automobile companies coming on board.
It’s not just about buying GRPs; the brands recognize that kids are important in the household, which is why they are taking the extra effort.”
Innovation & Integration
Being a competitive genre, the need to break through the clutter has led to advertisers maturing and become more demanding as they look for value in their associations. “Animation takes time and that limits advertisers because it needs to be done at least six months in advance for proper animated brand integration,” says Ravindranath. One such seamless integration was between Kellogg’s Chocos mascot Coco and Pogo’s Chhota Bheem for a four-part branded miniseries titled Coco aur Chhota Bheem ka Dhamaal. For an immediate solution, Turner also does vignettes using footage of the characters which doesn’t take as much time as animation.
Digital – The Way Ahead
Looking ahead, Digital will be an important pillar for the company. Desai claims its two websites – Cartoon Network and Pogo.TV, are two leading portals in the country targeting kids specifically with different kinds of content. The company is also looking to launch two digital apps - Cartoon Network Watch and Play and CN Anything. Turner is also betting on merchandising becoming a core part of its revenues.
It will be interesting to see how the channels go about evolving and reclaiming their leadership position.