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Sony YAY! lines up 109 new episodes & 13 movies this summer as channel turns 2

Sony YAY!, the first kids offering from Sony Pictures Networks, India, is completing 2 years in April 2019. The kids’ channel has tripled its content bank to 300 hours since launch as it adds 100 hours of fresh fun-dose this summer with new episodes and 13 movies. Sony YAY! is all set to go multi-platform with long and short content formats on Sony LIV, mobile games, screen integration initiatives and more. 

Sony YAY! is the only kid’s TV channel that serves content in 7 languages – English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Bangla, Malayalam and Marathi. The channel claims to have taken the leadership position in the kids’ category in West Bengal, Maharashtra and Kerala consistently. 

Sony YAY! launched in 2017 with almost 95 hours of content, and in these two years has introduced characters such as Kicko and Super Speedo as well as a feline duo in ‘Honey Bunny Ka Jholmaal’. 

As part of its birthday celebrations, Sony YAY! has lined up a plethora of initiatives offline to keep kids engaged with their favourite toons across India. Malls in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Kochi, will allow kids to meet their favourite YAY toons up-close and personal. Sony YAY! van activation across India in over 115 cities will enable young fans to meet and play with the toon characters. Associations with a host of brands, amusement parks, and a slew of merchandise are also on the anvil. 

Leena Lele Dutta, Business Head, Sony Pictures Networks India, Kids Genre, commented, “We started with a belief to create characters and stories that kids will love. It has been an exhilarating journey to be a part of kid’s lives. This summer, we have planned loads of fresh content with 109 new episodes and 13 movies on TV. The characters, however, are character agnostic and every new platform is an avenue to bring toons to life beyond just TV. Seven language feeds, digital extensions and consumer products are all a step towards a new phase of our journey and we have never been more excited.”

In conversation with Adgully, Leena Lele Dutta speaks at length on the growth of the kids’ genre in India, Sony YAY!’s content strategy, focus on growing the language markets, innovations and much more. Excerpts: 

How is Sony YAY! strategising to be the ‘Destination for unlimited happiness for kids’?

 Sony Pictures Networks, India didn’t have a kids’ channel in their portfolio, so when we decided to launch a kids’ channel 4 years ago there was no legacy or guidelines to follow. We had a field day on what we wanted to do on the content side. We then hit the ground and researched. We went across 30-odd cities, metros and non-metros, had focus groups. We not only met kids, but also mothers, fathers, grandparents, teachers, counselors and child psychologists to understand the kids’ psyche. We got a lot of insights – kids today, whether they are from the metros or towns, are very competitive and aspirational. Hence, this space is very competitive. 

A kids’ life today is filled with so many activities that they get just about 1 hour of TV time. That 1 hour is when they want to be free from all kinds of stress and it is during this time that they are sucked into the world of toons and their friends. These friends are not real, but characters in their favourite cartoons. Today’s kids want their ‘Me’ time and are looking for role models and these little pieces and nuggets of happiness to come into their life, even if for that 1 hour. Once the TV is switched off, they are back to reality. 

That’s when we decided to build on this premise – come to us and we will ensure that you will get unlimited happiness, away from the stress of homework/tuitions, etc. The core premise of our channel’s philosophy is ‘Happiness unlimited’, which is encapsulated in many ways – our content mix, colours of the channel and the brand resonating into the theme of the channel – the YAY philosophy. 

Kids might not be loyal to channels, but are definitely attached to shows or their favourite characters. How is Sony YAY! factoring that in?
We have done a dipstick with the kids in the market and our decision to go aggressive and whole hog with Honey Bunny is coming from that research. The character affinity with the two cats, Honey & Bunny, their constant banter, quarrels even as they are surrounded by other characters like a dog, parrot and humans in the form of Khanna and Khatkar. Actually, this is the flavour, confusion and slapstick comedy that the kids have identified with and enjoyed. 

Kids in North India have more affinity with ‘Kicko & Super Speedo’ as it is a fast-paced action show. Kids love how Super Speedo is energised by cosmic energy when she goes to sleep – all the manifestations of a kid’s mind, which is fertile and imaginative. 

How has the response been in the regional markets?
The response has been fantastic. We are exclusively available in Malayalam, Bangla and Marathi languages. We are the No. 1 if we take the aggregate of these three markets together. When we launched in Bangla, it didn’t do too well initially. It took 6 weeks before the channel gathered momentum and since then the channel has seen a steady organic growth; now we are the No. 2 or No. 3 in the Bangla kids’ genre. 

We were in two minds regarding launching in Marathi, as Hindi is also prevalent in Maharashtra. But we took the risk and launched the channel and now it has taken 4 weeks to be among the top 3 kids’ channels. 

In Malayalam, we shot up from the second week itself to be the No. 2 channel from 7th or 8th. We do not literally translate and dub, but in each language the script is written in the regional language to get in the local flavour and nuances of the language of that particular region. 

With kids’ channels like Cartoon Network, Pogo, Nickelodeon have a greater top-of-mind recall, how is Sony YAY! planning to break through that barrier?

 There is a challenge with the iconic brands that have been in the market for two decades now. Ultimately, if I have to look at it from a two-pronged approach, on the one hand is our target audience – the kids – and the other is the trade. The trade believes that the iconic brands have the pull and the power, but kids think otherwise. For example, ‘Honey Bunny’ and ‘Kicko’ are equally important to them as ‘Motu Patlu’ or ‘Chota Bheem’. In their minds, kids are very clear as to who their friends are. 

In audience preference terms, we have come very close to being among the top 5 in character affinity. However, in the trade perspective, it is still a challenge. We are trying to break that as the channel is seeing its trajectory moving from No. 8 when we launched and now breaking into the top 5. In addition to being No. 1 in the local markets, there is a perception shift as well and they are recognising the investment that the channel has been doing in creating local content and spending that kind of money, as cost of animation is only increasing year on year. The proof of the pudding is the kind of growth that the channel has had from the time of its launch. 

What kind of licensing and merchandising opportunities are you exploring?

 This is a natural progression and extension of our IPs. It is not only to feed our broadcast business, but the more my characters reach out to the different touchpoints in a kid’s life, the more will be the affinity that the kid has towards the character – this feeds off each other. 

I will go and offer him school bags and pencil boxes which he will take to school, then come back and watch more of ‘Honey Bunny’. In terms of brand promotion, we have integrated a juice brand with ‘Honey Bunny’. If he loves the character, he will go and buy that packet of juice. 

It’s all an eco-system and a natural extension; licencing and merchandising allow us to go beyond on-air and television. 

What about your digital foray?
We have recently got on to the SonyLIV platform and this will be the first season where our episodes/ games will be available on the OTT platform. We also have our YouTube channel of Sony YAY!, which was launched in November 2018. From 0 subscribers, we now have 630,000 subscribers. We have grown exponentially. 

How has the kids’ genre been affected by TRAI’s new regime?
The new regime has upset many genres, not just the kids’ genre. What we are going by is the BARC data, and BARC themselves are saying don’t go by this data too seriously, we will give you an advisory when it settles down. So, hopefully in the next month or so we will be able to see clarity.

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