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Got it Need it – Profiles in programming strategy

In a crowded, competitive market, Nickelodeon India is pulling out all the stops to boost its ratings share. The 24-hour kidsnet made an early entrance into India nearly seven years ago. It now has six all-kids broadcasters to contend with and currently ranks in the bottom three. According to VP and GM Hema Govindan, it's time to fight back and hopefully claim a top-three spot by year's end.
August 1, 2006

In a crowded, competitive market, Nickelodeon India is pulling out all the stops to boost its ratings share. The 24-hour kidsnet made an early entrance into India nearly seven years ago. It now has six all-kids broadcasters to contend with and currently ranks in the bottom three. According to VP and GM Hema Govindan, it’s time to fight back and hopefully claim a top-three spot by year’s end.

‘We paid the price of an early entrance,’ she says. ‘But nothing is lost; the kids category is kind of blossoming and coming into its own right now.’

The net reaches close to 23 million homes in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal and international Nick fare pulls in the largest audiences. The net has recently tacked an extra hour on to its now four-hour-long Nick Jr. block, with Dora the Explorer and Blue’s Clues taking top five spots across all channels in the preschool category.

Meanwhile for older viewers, Govindan says SpongeBob SquarePants and a few live-actioners such as Drake & Josh and Kenan & Kel are also time-slot winners. In terms of demographics, the net’s audience is pretty much split 50/50 between boys and girls and tends to skew younger. Four- to nine-year-olds make up 75% of its audience, while kids nine to 14 account for the other 25%.

But it’s a tight market. Cartoon Network was the first kidsnet to stake a claim in the territory and it continues to hold down the number-one spot, with other players such as Animax and Disney Channel also exerting a strong pull on the attention of the country’s kids.

To kickstart a turnaround, Nick India has ramped up its presence within the industry over the past nine months. The net has brought in more kids programming, marketing and studio production pros, and the next step is to add programming that makes the net stand apart from the competitors.

In August, for example, Japanese series The Adventures of Pan and James (The Munnabhai Show in India) is hitting the airwaves to offer viewers something a little different. Targeting tweens, the 26 x 12-minute live-action series follows the adventures of a dog and a monkey as they carry out an array of hilarious tasks.

Govindan says local productions are also essential to raising Nick India’s profile. Last year, the net launched Bollywood-inspired co-pro Bole Toh Jadoo with Indian animation company Graffiti, as well as an adaptation of the game show Double Dare, called Dum Duma Dum. Govindan is now on the lookout for more local series, either co-productions or straightforward acquisitions. ‘There are some cultural or social cues that don’t necessarily get addressed by international acquisitions,’ she says. ‘And that’s the gap that we’re looking to fill.’

Despite the thirst for homegrown fare, Govindan says international acquisitions are definitely still on the menu. She will be heading to Mipcom in October on the lookout for shows targeting the older spectrum of the preschool set. Comedy for boys six to 11 is also on her radar. ‘Pester power is much higher with boys in India. In a home with a boy and a girl, the boy picks what gets watched at home,’ she says. Although she’s entertaining live-action and animation pitches equally, Govindan notes that animation is easier to dub.

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