Leveraging its unique position as India’s only 24-hour kids network dealing in local live-action programming, HungamaTV has come on strong in the region’s burgeoning broadcast landscape since its launch in September.
Sitting behind only Cartoon Network in terms of reach, HungamaTV is currently the second-most-watched channel during kids prime time from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., overtaking all other competition, including Turner’s POGO. Overall, the channel’s availability in India’s 26 regional markets (16 of which are Hindi-speaking) has grown by 126% since its debut, and it currently competes neck and neck with Cartoon Network in the top six metropolitan markets, with access to 49% of total viewing households.
In order to keep this growth spurt going, head of programming Zarina Mehta is in the process of broadening the net’s content scope to include animation. And she’s buying up a storm on the international market to do so. Since March, Hungama has debuted more than a dozen new acquisitions, including Arthur (Cookie Jar Entertainment), Doraemon (TV Asahi), Pororo (Iconix), Martin Morning (Les Cartooneurs), Sonic X (ShoPro Entertainment) and Titeuf (France Animation). ‘It’s imperative that we build a strong animation band on the channel,’ says Mehta. ‘Though live action remains our key driver, animated content helps to build Hungama’s GRPs,’ which should help its sales team attract more advertising business.
Working with a budget that’s grown by 50% since the channel’s fall launch, Mehta plans to pick up an additional 150 half-hour episodes of animation this year, as well as at least four live-action formats and some animated movies. Hungama strips most of its live-action shows daily, which means Mehta looks for episode counts between 150 and 200 eps. She’s a bit more flexible when it comes to toons, though, because she believes ‘animation thrives on a good repeat strategy.’
Prior to Hungama’s debut, parent company UTV conducted a wide-scale syndicated study of 2,400 children and 1,200 parents to map out kids TV viewing habits in India. The research ID’d a huge gap in the kids broadcast landscape, which used to be comprised exclusively of dubbed channels from abroad. Considering the fact that India’s under-15 population tops 310 million kids (130 million of which are TV viewers), Mehta says there seemed to be a very clear opportunity to serve this audience with locally produced live-action series and formats.
To support the study’s findings with qualitative research – and as a way of keeping in touch with its audience – Hungama auditioned 100,000 kids, hand-picking 20 to serve on its board of directors and give monthly reports on their on-air likes and dislikes. ‘Kids are getting fairly universal in what they want, and they’re becoming more TV-savvy, brand-savvy and tech-savvy,’ says Mehta. ‘Younger urban kids love animation, but they wean off it as they get older and want live action because they like seeing people like themselves on-screen.’
Hungama is broken into three main dayparts, catering to four- to eight-year-olds and moms between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., setting aside 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. as a domain for animation, and then hitting live action hard in prime time.
The channel’s top performers so far include a messy, gross-out game show called Gol Gol Gullam (which roughly translates as ‘I’m a Slave of the Wheel’) and Full Toss, a national street cricket competition between school teams led by popular pro players. In terms of fiction, Mehta says Indian kids seem to grok to magic, comedy, adventure and Indian values rolled into one package, with good always winning out over evil. UTV’s bhoot.com does a particularly good job at balancing these elements, following a young girl named Sheena as she battles supernatural villains and ghosts. In fact, the 204 x half-hour show is performing so well that Mehta plans to start stripping it daily this month.