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Discovery Kids grew 35-40% during the pandemic, but revenue was impacted: Uttam Pal Singh

Pandemic or no pandemic, Discovery Kids has been churning out fresh content. Last year, the channel had amped up its plans to engage and entertain young audiences amidst lockdown by launching more than 100+ new episodes and 8 new Telemovies of its popular Indian IPs – ‘Little Singham’ and ‘Fukrey Boyzzz’. Discovery Kids also launched a unique social media campaign, titled #SuperheroesStayHome, which aimed to help children learn new skills and accomplish tasks by engaging them in a meaningful way as they remained confined to their homes due to the nationwide lockdown last year.

Continuing to invest, invent and innovate in its content strategy to engage with its young audiences, Discovery Kids has started 2021 with a bang, with a robust, back-to-back line-up of content for its young viewers that include blockbusters from their popular superhero cop franchise, Little Singham; Desh Ke Sipahi - Super Squad and Desh Ka Sipahi - Dog Squad as well as all-new episode of the notorious gang, ‘Fukrey Boyzzz’.

In conversation with Adgully, Uttam Pal Singh, Head of Discovery Kids, speaks about growth during the pandemic period, the investment in the channel’s content strategy and what to expect from the channel’s popular IPs in the year ahead.

How has the overall Kids’ genre been impacted due to the pandemic?

Discovery Kids grew 35%-40%, while the genre grew by about 30%-32%, so the pandemic really helped Disocvery Kids over skew on the viewership front. However, the revenue or the monetisation on that viewership was still impacted. So, it was more of a bittersweet situation. Our goal is to continue to build viewership and reach new audiences, seeing the value we bring to the brands, advertisers are already coming back. We’ve recovered very fast and we’re on a path of growth from both viewership and revenue pint of view.

With the Unlock, how are you viewing the return of ad revenues?

I think it is connected with the previous question and for us, the inventories are going full. We are working on some really exciting brand integrations; we’re working very closely with some very exciting brands to build some really unique content and add value to the brand as well as our audience and our characters. We have some new categories of advertisers on the Kids’ genre, specific to online education like BYJU’s and White Hat Jr., who have been partnering with Discovery Kids regularly.

What does your content line-up look like for 2021?

In Q2, we have about 15 movies lined up, bringing back-to-back launches every week as well as lots of new episodes. We’re starting with ‘Kaal Ki Shatir Chaal’, which is one of our premiere content pieces, followed by kids’ favourite comic character, Choocha’s birthday on 1st April with a movie called ‘Bhaago Choocha Aaya’, marking our entry into a slightly spookier genre with the ‘Fukrey Boyzzz’ franchise. We’re building on some of our existing franchises within the IPs that we have created. ‘Desh Ka Sipahi’, which has been a very popular franchise with Little Singham, will see our favourite little hero go on more missions with the armed forces. Taking on from the first movie, ‘Vanaar Sena 2’, which is in the pipeline, will continue to see the ‘Fukrey Boyzzz’, who are now a part of Hanumanji’s Vanaar Sena, face some bigger challenges, along with a unique message.

We have ‘Little Singham Super Squad 2’ coming up, where you will see Little Singham along with his super friends from different parts of the country – from the North, South India and even from the North-East – come together to go on a mission. We’ll also see Little Singham go on international adventures and into a fantasy world, this is something which we’ve never done before. We also have some exciting new line-ups celebrating India’s diversity, called ‘I Love my India’, and we’re starting this with Gudi Padwa and the Tamil New Year festival. We’re trying to build these little, unique stories within the Little Singham universe to showcase our country’s diversity to our younger audiences, giving a kid sitting in Gujarat or Punjab an understanding of what Tamil New Year stands for, or what does Gudi Padwa mean.

What has been the impact of the accelerated digital transition last year on Discovery Kids?

In that aspect if you’re comparing the audiences watching more digital content versus audiences watching more linear, in my opinion there has been no impact on the Kids’ genre in India. The entire television viewership is growing and so is the Kids’ genre. I think there is room for growth for everybody here. We don’t have to be in a status of thinking that its really going to disrupt the business, it’s not. The real audience and IPs are being built on linear platforms and the real investments are being made on linear platforms. In the times to come, there will be some certain balance, India has a huge population of kids and there is a population which is still underserved, so there is room for every platform to grow and reach the audience.

So, in short, no, Digital has not impacted Discovery Kids. In fact, Discovery Kids has only grown with any changes in the ecosystem through its iconic characters, unique and relatable storytelling.

What is the concept behind ‘Kaal Ki Shaatir Chaal’?

Little Singham ‘Kaal Ka Badla’ was one of the highest rated movies in kids’ television in 2020 and continues to be one of the top rating movies, with reruns still topping the ratings chart in the entire genre. ‘Kaal’ as a villain really captured kids’ imaginations. ‘Kaal Ki Shatir Chal’ is the 4th instalment tele-feature in the entire saga of Little Singham vs Kaal. In each movie, Kaal comes up with a new challenge for Little Singham, but this one is different in a way that Little Singham not only has to confront the challenge with his strength, but also unknowingly become part of Kaal’s shrewd plans, that’s why we’re calling it a ‘Kaal ki Shatir Chaal’. Kaal, along with his buri shaktiyan of greed and anger, who are manifested as villains, are out to destroy Earth. He sets some moves in motion which drains Little Singham of all his strength, turning him into a normal kid, but inevitably making him rely on his inner strength to defeat Kaal. With this film, we wanted to send a message out to kids that your power is in your belief and not necessarily in any physical strength, so if you believe that you are strong on the inside, then you can overcome any adversity.

Keeping in mind the COVID-19 safety protocols, what kind of challenges are you face while shooting?

This is an animation show and series, as per policy there are teams working out of home, even if the studios are open and it’s all dependent on whether their local municipalities have allowed it, they’re still following up certain safety norms. Keeping all the safety measures in mind and depending on all the municipalities and rules in place, the voiceover team has come together to make this movie. Being an animation show, you are able to do a lot of work and production digitally, and we definitely do not have to face the challenges that a live action movie faces, where you have to be on a set. So, this animation production pipeline is future-ready and virtual.

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