Our aim is to always create screen agnostic content: Viacom18’s Anu Sikka

The network’s kids channel Nickelodeon recently unveiled a robust summer slate.

KOLKATA: The pandemic has been an epoch changing event for most adults, but it has also had a significant impact on children, too. A year of being confined to their homes later, the world is no longer their oyster, but has shrunk to the small screen – their window to the unseen and unknown domain outside. No wonder that kids are consuming more content across all mediums, be it traditional modes or new age platforms. With summer vacation set to start amid partial lockdowns across the country, young viewers will tune in to TV more than ever.

To tap into the increased demand in April-June quarter, Nickelodeon recently unveiled a robust summer slate for kids. “This is a crucial time for the audience as well as the broadcasters because the viewership usually tends to be highest during this particular period. We have come up with the biggest ammunition that we can think of to roll out in this particular quarter,” said Viacom18 kids cluster content programming and strategy head Anu Sikka.

The network has come up with new episodes of all the series that have been doing exceptionally well on both Nick and Sonic. Hence, the new line-up includes new episodes of old favourites like Motu Patlu, Rudra, Golmal Jr., Pinaki and Happy - The Bhoot Bandhus, and Ninja Hatori. Though it relaunched Zig & Sharko on Sonic in the last quarter of 2020, it is not ruling out fresh episodes for this show as well. The summer line-up also includes mini movies around popular cartoon characters.

Last year, viewership for kids channels hit the roof when lockdown kicked in. While the ratings started returning to normal as things opened up, they are rising again now and are on course to reach the usual summer peak. 

“In this era of uncertainty, we are trying to ensure when a child comes to watch Nick or Sonic, they should get that feeling of continuity that nothing has changed for them. So, there’s at least one aspect of life that remains unchanged for them,” Sikka added.

There has been marked shift in content consumption trends too in recent times. Earlier, children were not willing to accept new characters or it could take a substantial amount of time for them to do so. But Sikka highlighted that this behaviour has changed over the last two years. Today, audiences are keenly on the look-out for new series and characters. However, the success of new shows lies in effective storytelling and good animation, she remarked.

For instance, Pinaki and Happy - The Bhoot Bandhus was produced without following tried and tested methods; but on the back of unique content, it has done well and has climbed to the top five shows in the category within the past six months, mentioned Sikka.

Over the past ten years, another major change that has taken place in the industry is the emergence of indigenous content. “I don’t think there is any broadcaster who can think of success without creating Indian characters, and local Indian shows. Every channel which had success has been on the back of locally produced content,” stated the content programming head, adding, “Indian animation industry, the broadcasters in the kids’ category have adapted to this change extremely fast.”

Given the success of the genre, major OTT platforms have also started investing in the kids segment. Many industry experts have predicted that this trend would increase pressure on broadcasters. But Sikka is not worried about competition from OTTs. First, kids are not particularly interested in OTT exclusive content, said she; second, the network ensures that its popular characters, shows are present in all the spaces that draw young viewers.

“Our aim is to always create screen agnostic content. It does not matter where the child is consuming the content. I truly believe as a content maker, if your story is strong, if your content is strong, if the children like the characters you have developed, they will watch it no matter the platform. Nick-Sonic shows do well across all the platforms, whether they’re watched on Nick or Sonic or Voot Kids, or YouTube channel of Nick,” Sikka signed off.

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