Sony Pictures Networks India enters the kids genre with the launch of its kids entertainment channel, Sony Yay, the spotlight being on four home-grown original animated shows
By Simran Sabherwal
It’s been a busy year so far for the team at Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) as the network has expanded organically and inorganically across genres including sports and factual entertainment. Now, SPN has ventured into the kids genre with the launch of its kids entertainment channel, Sony Yay. Scheduled to go live on April 18, Sony Yay has been positioned as the ‘Destination for Unlimited Happiness’ for kids, and will be available in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. While it is debatable whether SPN has made a late entry into the cluttered Rs 500 crore kids’ entertainment space, what has boosted the confidence of the network is the correction the genre saw in ad rates in 2016, wherein the under-indexed kids genre witnessed a 20% growth with increased ad rates.
Commenting on the need for a kids channel in SPN’s portfolio, NP Singh, Chief Executive Officer, SPN, says there are a significant number of young viewers residing on the network, courtesy popular programmes such as CID, Taarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chashmah and Baal Veer, and the time is right to leverage this and give this audience a destination of its own. It will be interesting to see how Sony Yay makes a mark in the very competitive genre where the three dominant players – Viacom18, Disney and Turner – collectively have a market-share of around 90%. According to Singh, Yay’s distinctive proposition will be local, indigenous content produced in India. He says, “We are the only channel launching with four original locally produced shows.” Reiterating this thought process is Leena Lele Dutta, Business Head, Sony Yay, who says, “The biggest advantage we have is that we don’t have a pedigree of kids international channels. We wanted to get into the skin of the game by creating our own characters which appeal to local sensibilities. The percentage of acquired content resting on the channel is as low as 15%.”
Local content also means a significant investment, as animation is not cheap, and the cost of production for a single episode could be as high as Rs 30-50 lakh. Giving insights on this business decision, Singh says, “The conscious call that we took meant higher investment. The easier road could have been to go into the market and pick up content, dub it in multiple languages and put it on air. We didn’t want to go down that path.” He continues, “Our objective is not to take on anyone, we never do that. We create competition and that’s what we wanted to do with Sony Yay as well, and therefore decided that we must invest in creating original content produced in India with Indian sensibilities.”
The channel has laid out an extensive 360-degree campaign, utilizing its brand ambassador Tiger Shroff, to reach out to kids. An effort is being made to go beyond metros into mini-metros with activations across malls and vans to ensure that Yay as a brand is seeded across India. With the new BARC universe now measuring kids in the 2-14 age group (as against 4-14 earlier), Sony Yay will have a sharper focus targeting kids in the 6-8 age group.
Commenting on advertiser interest in the channel, Singh says the response from advertisers has “been very encouraging and positive”. Kids programming also lends itself to brand integration and non-FCT sales and this will be an area of focus. Says Dutta, “Character association is what we are aiming to do deep down with brands, and create partnerships with our advertisers and clients. Each character can be exploited differently for different brand purposes. We are looking at that piece very seriously.”
A challenge in the kids space is getting kids to love the character and building character affinity, and this is where having local content works, says Dutta. She explains, “It’s character affinity that gets the kids to connect the fastest and what better way but serve them local characters that talk in their own language and reflect the nuances that that are part of their day-to-day life?” The four shows that Sony Yay kicks off with are ‘Guru Aur Bhole’ – a musical animated comedy, ‘Sab Jholmaal Hai’ – a chase comedy with four pets as protagonists, ‘Prince Jai aur Dumdaar Viru’ - a tale of two friends and a ghost comedy ‘Paap-O-Meter’. Looking ahead, the channel will add three more original shows in October.
The content of Sony Yay will not be seen on Sony Liv immediately, but will be made available only in the future. While kids content has a long shelf life, building a library takes time. On its part, Sony Yay will have 52 episodes of 22 minutes for each of its launch shows by the end of the first year. The additional shows which will be added in October will also have 52 episodes each, thereby creating “a robust library”.
Finally, with the advent of summer, the fight in the kids space has also heated up. Now, it’s wait and watch to see how Guru Aur Bhole fares against the likes of Chhota Bheem, Motu Patlu and Arjun.