Viacom18’s Anu Sikka on the ‘localisation’ in kids content &relatable storytelling

Anu sikka viacom18

With yet another addition to its content slate, Nickelodeon is betting big on producing local content and the need for ‘Indian-ising’ characters. We speak to Anu Sikka, Viacom18 on the need for immersive storytelling, relatability in kids’ genre, and creating local IPs.

Recently Nickelodeon launched its 11th homegrown animated IP ‘Chikoo aur Bunty’, touted as the only show in the category that is based entirely on the sweet-sour and inseparable relationship between siblings. The channel claims that its journey with local content kicked off almost a decade ago and today with 700+ hours of local content. 

Media Samosa gets in conversation with Anu Sikka, Head – Creative, Content & Research, Kids TV Network, Viacom18 to deep dive into the making of the latest show, significance of local content, advertiser sentiment, content production, and more.

Significance Of ‘Localisation’ In Kids’ Content

Highlighting that Nickelodeon has been featuring 100% local content, Anu Sikka claims that it goes on to show the power of local content. “It’s not just that because it is local it’s popular. When we create our own IPs with local content, we have the creative control as we understand our audience very well,” she says.    

For instance, a superhero concept is a pretty much universal one. When Nickelodeon created the show, Shiva, the dynamics that were portrayed of him with his grandparents are very India- centric. That is what makes the show and the character relatable for the audience. Nickelodeon is almost 100% local content while Sonic constitutes 70%-80% local content barring one which is a Japanese show – Ninja Hattori- which has been with Nickelodeon for the past 15 years or so.

The understanding of the psyche of a child, their likes and dislikes, dynamics in the family, relationships with friends, parent, siblings – the network claims that it has been able to incorporate all those emotions into its characters which make them far more enjoyable for the Indian audience.

Sikka adds, “When you go out and buy the content, the only way you Indianise those shows is through dubbing. But the basic characters and protagonists, you have no control in shaping them in a way that will make them more relatable to us.”

Also Read: Viacom18 appoints Jyoti Deshpande as CEO

Kids & Emotion-driven content – Whom are we targeting?

How you communicate emotions to a child is what matters – that’s the art of good storytelling. Sikka exemplifies this by saying that who’s going to get their favorite breakfast on Sunday? The older brother or the younger one. Which household does not have this story? During vacation time, one wants to go to the beach and the other to the hill station.

“Every family goes through this dilemma. So these are the kind of subjects that have been picked up in Chikoo aur Bunty. Those sentiments and emotions – it’s not that the kid doesn’t understand emotions. I think they are far more sensitive to them than us adults sometimes. While they won’t be able to say it as an adult, that doesn’t mean they don’t grasp them,” asserts Sikka.

It is the responsibility of content creators to make the kids understand and feel those emotions through apt storytelling, language, and communication. This is where the entire teamwork comes into play, from scriptwriters to character developers to the animation studios.

‘Chikoo aur Bunty’ will be aired from 10 AM onwards from Monday to Friday. Sikka shared that presently with the vacation period, the viewership in the morning is up. “Ever since we have experienced a lockdown we have realized that the kids are watching a huge amount of TV in the morning. As far as the weekdays are concerned, today, a kid doesn’t want to see a show just once or twice a week. With the kind of accessibility of content that they have, it’s not necessary that they will wait for you only on the weekends. If you really want to popularise the show, you need to increase the frequency of the show as much as you possibly can.”

At the same time, there is going to be a re-run of the show twice a day post 10 AM.

Content Production & Viewership: Pre & Post Pandemic

When the pandemic hit, production came to a halt and content quality and quantity got affected. However Sikka shared that for them the content quality stays the same, there is no difference, and that the network has managed to create differentiated content during the pandemic and continues to do so.

Normally any animated show takes anything from 12-14 months to get ready. Chikoo aur Bunty was made in 6 months. “This is one show that has probably been created in a record time,” exclaimed Sikka. “When things come to a standstill during the second wave in April, work did not stop for us. During the first lockdown in April 2020, the viewership spiked. But slowly as the online classes started, and when life started coming back to track, steadily the viewership started coming back to when it was pre-pandemic. If we compare the current viewership with that of October 2019’s, we are almost at the same place.”

As far as the ROI of the content is concerned, it can be gauged in multiple ways. One is how the show or the channel is performing. In terms of revenue returns, the Viacom18 kid’s cluster has maintained that the category is hugely under index compared to the kind of viewership it commands.

Sikka highlights, “At the same time it’s an extremely slow process. But things have improved over the last 3-4 years. Advertisers have slowly but steadily begun to understand the power of this category when it comes to viewership and ratings. As the kids cluster of the network, if we have the highest share of viewership, proportionately we also have the highest share of the revenue. We would like it to see it improved and recognize the strength of the kid’s category.”  

“As far as revenue is concerned, according to the network, we are the market leader in the share of ratings with a 33% market share currently,” concludes Sikka.



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