After growing up with Tom & Jerry, DuckTales, TaleSpin, Powerpuff Girls, in 2008 children in India were introduced to a new hero—Chota Bheem—by kids channel Pogo. Taking inspiration from Indian mythology, Chota Bheem was the quintessential Indian superhero but with modern sensibilities. No wonder that children developed an instant liking for the animation series of the same name propelling Pogo to the number one position in the kids entertainment genre. Soon followed other characters such as Mighty Raju, Kumbh Karan on Pogo. Launched as a general entertainment channel for kids, Pogo completes 10 years in India this month. In a conversation KRISHNA DESAI, executive director and network head, kids, South Asia, Turner International India, talks about the journey of the channel.
Pogo completes 10 years in the country. How has the journey been for the channel which started as second fiddle to Cartoon Network?
The last 10 years have been really fantastic for Pogo in India. The channel was launched in January 1, 2004 as a general entertainment channel (GEC) for kids as back then Cartoon Network was considered to be the main cartoon channel for kids in India. The channel was launched with a variety of programmes including animation, movies, local content, game shows, etc, which was not based on any particular genre. Also, the channel targetted children in the age group of 4-14 years which provided the scope to broaden its programming content. The other reason behind Pogo’s success is that the channel was 100 per cent made for Indian market. 80 per cent of Pogo’s content – animation series such as Chota Bheem, Mighty Raju, Kumbh Karan, the art and craft series MAD – were either locally sourced or created.
To what extend has Chota Bheem turned the tide in favour of Pogo and helped it in its success?
While Pogo was popular at the time, Chota Bheem was launched. In terms of ranking, the channel was third or fourth depending on a particular week’s performance. Cartoon Network was the leader in the kids programming genre. Nickelodeon was not distributed well, so the channel had limited reach and then Disney launched its kids channels. There was no dearth of content as far as the kids genre was considered. But within two and a half years of launching Chota Bheem, Pogo became the number one channel. The show which is now a franchisee provided a huge boost to Pogo and helped us to beat the other channels including Cartoon Network to become number one.
Do you have any plans to add more language feeds this year?
Language feed was introduced in 1999 based on Cartoon Network’s desi boom strategy. The aim behind the move was to make content locally relevant for children in this country. Apart from launching Pogo in English, three new feeds were added—Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. There is no plan to launch any more language feeds as in states such as West Bengal, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka there is no demand for content in regional languages as viewers prefer watching Pogo either in English or Hindi.
Pogo has fewer programmes on air compared to other channels. Is this a deliberate move, and what is the reason behind it?
Kids today have become more selective when it comes to watching television. Time spent on television has reduced to two hours a day. Children have a lot of options with an increase in the number of channels. So we changed our programming strategy, so rather than launching new shows, we increased the volume of our content. We acquired new seasons, which helped in providing a continuity to the story-telling. This strategy has worked in Pogo’s favour.
With broadcasters yet to benefit from digitisation, how will you ensure revenue growth?
The issue with the kids genre is that there is a lot of under-pricing as far as advertising revenue is concerned. The number of channels has increased from one or two channels to nine or 10 today and everyone is fighting for their share of advertising revenue. The kids genre accounts for 6.47 per cent of the total television viewership pie. The genre’s share in the advertising pie is only three per cent, almost half of its share in the viewership pie. As broadcasters, we are yet to benefit from digitisation in the form of subscription revenue. So we try to come out with solutions through which we could provide something extra to our advertisers. We partner with our advertisers through brand associations, various online activities and on-ground initiatives. We have a division called Turner Media Solutions which handles the deals.
For a kids channel, how important is the web which gives the option to introduce games online and on-ground activities. How has Pogo leveraged this platform?
Online games is the pillar of the overall online strategy. Our research revealed that kids spend 70 per cent of their time online playing games. We created branded games based on popular characters such as Chota Bheem, Chutki, etc. On-ground activities are equally important as it provides face-to-face interaction with children. We reach out to thousands of schools and we get quality interaction with kids in a branded environment. We take our popular characters there. For example, through Bheem’s Green Team, we spread the message about environment, that is, ‘how green is good’. We usually organise two large events, followed by three smaller programmes. We reach out to over a million kids over a year.
What are the new programmes that you have lined up for Pogo?
The aim is to always be at the number one position and to ensure this we have acquired new content apart from acquiring new episodes of on-going shows. So viewers will get to see more of Mighty Raju and Chota Bheem. Additionally, the channel will have original programming such as Chhota Chintu Bada Pheku, more live action, tele-movies such as Bhoot Raja Aur Ronnie.