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Exclusive | Viacom18's mission edutainment with Nick Jr

Viacom 18 Media Pvt. Ltd. India's leading entertainment conglomerate, has announced the expansion of the Nickelodeon franchise in India with the launch of ‘Nick Jr.’, an eco-system for pre-school kids and moms. Celebrity mom Farah Khan and Dora the Explorer, the channel’s cult character, unveiled the first look of the channel at a press conference in Mumbai on 11th December 2012. . With world-class content on-air, backed by a comprehensive consumer products range at retail, Nick Jr. aims to become the preferred destination for kids from the age of 2-6 years along with their moms. After Colors, MTV, Nickelodeon, Vh1, Sonic and Comedy Central, Nick Jr. is the 7th channel from Viacom18 in India. It is the third under the Nickelodeon brand, after Nick and Sonic.

Nick Jr. is world famous for it’s kid-friendly, safe and edutaining shows. It is globally screened across 125 countries in over 25 languages. The shows on Nick Jr. are created with clear curriculum goals, keeping in mind a child’s growing needs, be it motor, cognitive, creative or technical skills. With properties like Dora the Explorer, Go Diego Go, Team Umizoomi, Bubble-Guppies and Blues Clues, amongst many others, Nick-Jr shows are well-researched and proven to aid learning amongst pre-school kids.  The channel’s cult character, Dora the Explorer is a huge hit with kids and mothers including celebrity moms like Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, Katie Homes amongst many more. With their entry into India the magic will now win the hearts of millions of kids here with 100% international shows that will air daily from 6am to 7pm post which Teen Nick takes over.

Bringing to life Nick Jr.’s iconic characters and shows, Viacom18 plans to launch comprehensive range of consumer products at retail, across categories, to build engagement with the kids, outside television as well. Nick Jr. will also have strong online presence to engage and interact with young parents. Nick Jr. website will also have interesting games for toddlers. The website will aim at providing useful tips and information on a growing child’s need from experts. With their philosophy ‘The smart place to play’ Nick Jr.  promises to be an exclusively pre-school channel.

Sandeep Dahiya, SVP, Consumer Products – Viacom18, said, “Given the line-up of iconic characters on Nick Jr., we’re ready to give wings to kids’ imagination, through a product range that’s comprehensive as well as interactive.” He further added that as part of their plan to create an eco-system around Nick Jr., they  will not only further strengthen the Dora the Explorer franchise, but also bring to life some of their  other internationally acclaimed properties like Go Diego Go, Bubble Guppies, Blues Clues and Team Umizoomi, in categories that are both, conventional as well as unconventional

Adgully spoke to Nina Elavia Jaipuria, EVP & Business Head – Kids Cluster, – Viacom18, about the addition of another successful Viacom franchise to their India portfolio – Nick Jr. their programming package, advertising on the channel, content , size of the industry and shared other interesting aspects of the new channel for kids.

Speaking about the new channel and the kind of programming that can be expected she said that it would be very different.  Characters from the television shows will entertain the children and simultaneously help them to learn and develop certain skills.  “They will  be taken into a particular environment and into the story and while they are watching their favourite characters they are going to learn a lot in terms of skills viz. memory, motor , maths ,technical and cognitive skills so the different kind of programme you have here is the iconic character who then becomes the child’s best friend who is actually teaching the child certain skills which in the long term is not just only pure entertainment but also edutainment where the child simultaneously plays and learns and that is the content and what is really different about this channel,” said Nina Jaipuria.

When asked about the timing of the launch of the channel and why it was not thought of earlier she said, “It’s about being at the right time and the right place and I would imagine that there was always a need gap .  Lets not hide away from the fact that there was  no   need gap and I think every parent today wants their child to be a winner and in this competitive world you will do anything that you can to train, develop, educate and inform them. It is about the environment opening up, its about the wave of digitization and we want to ride that wave of digitization.  So if there is an offering that is going to bridge that need gap and the environment opens up  it now makes business sense to do it because we are a broadcaster and a part of the business as well. So if both come together you then have a product and an offering that works in the market. You automatically notice that the business makes sense from an investment perspective as well as from the returns perspective.  So it makes sense on the returns on investment as well as how you segment that offering and how that offering is meant for a very focused target group and digitization allows you to do both and that is why I would imagine now and  not before.” She says it is a pre- school concept. Digitization gives that reach and it gives the sense of talking to millions of households which they could not do for the last many years.

With regards to advertising in the channel she said that while currently it is ad free they cannot  say that they do not rely on adsales because until they don’t correct the subscription and adsales ratio for their television business as a whole they will have to continue to rely on adsales. Nina adds to say “But since we are a very responsible broadcaster we will be very selective  about what we really put on the channel in terms of brand and how much of it is valued  and therefore we will  ensure we are doing the right thing for the customer who is very impressionable. But having said that we cannot deny the fact that we are still very dependent on adsales but it won’t be much a s Nickelodeon of Sonic and we will be very cautious about the brand that we put up. Even on Nickelodeon today we don’t put colas and chips anyway so we are being responsible to some extent but until that ratio of subscription revenue really doesn’t correct itself like it has in the west our reliance on adsales has to continue . If you have healthy returns you probably invest back into the business and if you don’t the business languishes so you rather have a business that is having a healthy growth  and continue with healthy returns and make that correction as it goes. With digitization happening in the next 3-5 years I am sure that connection will happen.”

When asked about the  hours of content they plan to put up at this point of time she informed that the channel would run from 6 am to 7 pm since it is down time for the toddlers. They are moving the block from Nick Junior to Nick Teen Nick at 7 pm and hoping that the older siblings will take over the remote and watch content that is meant for them from 7 pm onwards.

Nickelodeon presently has no plans of investing in different content for  Teen Nick since it available  internationally and  most of the content is being consumed on You tube as of now in the country. It is world wide Nickelodeon content which is live action, sitcom and dramas with wonderful shows like Big Time Rush, Victorious and Unfabulous which are now making its way to India 

Says Nina, “I want to keep the channel alive and on in the house for as long as I can. It’s about trying to keep the viewer ship going on the channel and ensuring that it gets maximum viewership. Also it is catering to an audience that is available at that time to watch.”

Speaking about the content and elaborating whether it will be international or indigenous  she said, “For Nick Junior it makes absolutely no sense because I think for that particular segment geography has no boundaries. The kid doesn’t even know whether it is a Chinese, Japanese or an American show and it doesn’t really matter. The fact that worldwide Nick Junior has been researched and created by some and used by all, that is the formula and road map  we will follow because you really do not need a desi content for that.” She is of the opinion that since it is a concept of play and learn and development is really very universal they do not need indigenous content. Indigenous content has already made an appearance on their  mother channel Nickelodeon which has witnessed Motu Patlu, Keymon ache. In the world of digitization nowadays teens log on to Youtube to watch westernized programmes so it is catering to a certain segment and hence you could call it aspirational viewing says Nina.  Youngsters today want to watch what the west is watching so it is really about bringing that content to India. It is content which is slightly stylized , contemporary , slightly gadgety , music band based, internet based and all that which concerns the teenage space.

Where bifurcation of information  versus infotainment versus educational content is concerned she informed that it is all edutainment. There is not a single programme on Nick Junior that doesn’t help a child in his development. It even teaches small children to count and measure.  A show like Diego shows how to protect the environment and animals with the help of science and technology. Every show is actually edutainment i.e. play and learn which helps in the some aspect of a child’s development.

Throwing light on the marketing and promotional strategies Nina said, “We are going to start small and  in house because to me this marketing is not catering to the direct TG because they are too young so we are going to talk to the older Nick siblings who are nearly 10 million in number and of course to young mothers. But our target focus will really be young moms since most of them are continuously on the net looking for stuff to help out their children. Digital and online will be the other vehicles that we will go after and since print is not yet obsolete we will take that route as well,  especially magazines for women.”

On the digital front there is engagement with iPad apps etc.  As the channel goes forward one will see most of the curriculum get translated onto the website. There will be a lot of activities that the mother and toddler can do together in terms of basic games , arts and crafts. It can also become a destination for young moms. For e.g. If they want a health tip or a nutritious recipe Nick Junior is the place to be so from both perspectives one is interactivity and the other information and both will be found on the website.

Nina said there is no school activation to start with  on the channel since she considers the target audience too young. She would rather try from the conventional perspective of going mass media and talking to young mothers . According to her once the channel has stabilised and digitization is established then it will be possible to go through the pre school kids franchises as well.

Will the channel be completely international or will it have the Indian touch? To this she replied, “The packaging part is extremely international so you will see a lot of animation and most of packaging is also animation, it comes from two perspectives. It is an inherent nature in Indians who want their children to learn English  so this channel being very aspirational and English in nature and it will actually help them to read write and talk the language.” Presently they have no plans of opting for any other language other than English. She believes that English is the language that kids want to learn and nowadays with digitization happening they will keep the packaging aspirational and international.

“Maybe in the future we may localize the feel of the channel. There is a certain aura that Dora has . She is larger than life in the west and that is how we want to bring her into India as well. But it will not make a difference to children and it is animation we will stick to for sure and that is the only thing that transports them to  their imaginary world and so animation it will be,” says Nina Jaipuria.

Speaking about the size of the industry and where they  see themselves today she said that from a viewership perspective the age group 4-14 constitutes their total viewership which is a very large category . After GEC’s and movies it is the kids category that comes next so they really contribute in a big way where viewership is concerned. Nina elaborated on this and said, “ On a viewership perspective we are very large and a niche category.  Another fact is that more than 30% of our population is under the age of 14 so there are 300 million kids out there which is a large number and almost 30 million babies are born every year so that gives you scope for a Nick Junior. But from an adsales perspective I think we are hugely under indexed so while we are at an 8% on viewership we are at less than 2% on adsales and hugely under indexed from the category perspective. So we have come a long way and we do have a long way to go but it can only go up now and we are hoping to have a trajectory that betters this index for us so the market could be anything from 250 to 300 crores right now and it has been growing. Viewership and adsales has been growing and now with digitization subscription revenue has also become better so business will make more sense and reinvestment into business will look healthier as well.”

She considers 2012 a landmark year for the channel. “We finally put our peril on the digitization pace and now there is no stopping us especially when the environment opened up. Made it more conducive for broadcasters to take their offerings and make business sense of it. It has also been a landmark year for the franchise because we suddenly saw it being completed over a period of time from the mother brand which was humour and comedy into action and adventure which is a genre. We also saw a need gap in the preschool segment so the franchise seems to be complete from the toddler to the teenager today,” she said. She also informed that  the returns are getting healthier and the investment is going back into the business.  They entered into the local content for the first time with Keymon and Motu Patlu and now with a third show in the pipeline she considers it a very good year despite the slow down when they saw the category and adsales grow. Nina is very sure that it can only get better now with digitization.

Elaborating on the segmentation aspect she said with the environment opening up and with digitization happening it allows them to create an offering for a segment that is very focused. It also allows segmentation either from a demographic perspective which is age or from a genre perspective which could be action versus humour, horror, or comedy etc.. But what Viacom 18 intends to do is to segment the market that is now available on both perspectives, whether it is an age perspective or a genre perspective. Since the environment has opened up Nick Junior goes off the block first because it is a product that is readily available internationally. “Now with digitization and segmentation so narrowly  focused to 2-6 year olds and their moms it is easier for us to bring the product and offer it to people who are now digitized,” concludes Nina Elavia Jaipuria.

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