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Channels woo preschoolers with a slew of new programmes

Piyush Pandey  |  Ahmedabad 

With over a third of the country's population being below 14 years of age, the kids-entertainment space is turning a hotspot for television channels in the country.
Cartoon Network, Hungama Television, Disney Channel, Toon Disney, Pogo and Nick are major players catering to the 330 million children, which is the largest kids population in the world. An emerging, and lucrative too, segment in this area is the preschool.
Disney launched Playhouse Disney "" a four-hour learning platform engaging and stimulating the imagination of young minds "" on its channel today.
United Home Entertainment, a sister concern of UTV Software Communications Ltd, has filed an application with the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry for uplinking two more channels in the kids-entertainment space.
"Playhouse Disney's objective is to encourage imagining and learning by using age-appropriate tools and experiences. This will help parents to inculcate confidence in their children from the preschool days. The programme encourages active involvement. It will stimulate and entertain kids through interaction with Disney characters, stories and activities," Hema Govindan, head of marketing and communication, Walt Disney Television International (India), said.
The kids segment is underserved in Indian TV. While there are only seven TV channels catering to kids in the country, there are 20 such channels in the UK. The kids population there is just 11 million. Again, in the US, there are 17 kids channels for only 61 million kids.
"Of the seven kids channels in India, six are beaming down international content. Hungama is the only domestic channel with a mix of live action as well as animation. Hungama's strategy is to categorise the kids universe into three: pre-school, four-nine year segment and 10-14 year segment. There will be a three channel bouquet for Hungama in future. Hungama has been a pay channel in the Star bouquet from day one. These proposed channels too will be pay channels," said Zarina Mehta, head of programming, Hungama TV, in a statement.
Disney will be promoting its Playhouse Disney by touring 1,200 schools across the country, demonstrating how to learn by powering children's imagination.
"The programme is targeted at the two-five age group, parents and their caregivers. The four-hour block incorporates animation, puppetry, live action and CGI in a safe entertaining and educational TV environment," said Nachiket Pantvaidya, director - production and programming, Walt Disney Television International (India).
The Hungama channels will have a mix of acquired content in animation as well as locally produced live action programming and animation. UTV has one of the largest animation production facilities in South Asia.
"There is a clear and distinct segmentation in viewership happening between the various age groups and our focus on creating content will be aimed at these different. Those in the 4-9 age group are avid watchers of television and are clearly looking for content that will appeal to them. We will be sourcing formats internationally. Locally we plan to source content not only from UTV, but all content producers," said Mehta.
Playhouse Disney promises to be more than just entertainment. The programme's learning value is based on the whole child curriculum "" a syllabus developed in consultation with global and Indian early childhood advisors.
This approach aspires to stimulate thinking skills, develop motor skills, foster early academic learning, instill moral and social lessons and encourage creativity and artistic expression.

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First Published: Fri, July 01 2005. 00:00 IST