Viacom18's kids channel Nickelodeon has tasted success in taking its Indian content beyond serialised shows and is planning to bolster its efforts. Home-grown toons Motu and Patlu in their eponymous show would now feature in more full-fledged animated movies, for example. The series is one of its most popular shows in the kids genre, accounting for 44 per cent of viewership on the channel.
Nina Elavia Jaipuria, executive vice-president and business head, kids cluster, Viacom18, says that the duo will be seen outside Furfurinagar, the show's fictitious setting, enjoying adventures in telefilms to begin with.
The show's characters have already featured in three such movies and in 2015, they will be seen in five more. Their latest outing in this format, Kungfu Kings got 777 TVTs (television viewership in thousands), one of the highest in the genre. The next movie for the franchise, titled Khazane ki Khoj will premiere on 26 January.
Animated telefilms are not new and have been tried by other kids channels such as Turner's Cartoon Network and POGO. While the latter had aired Barbie movies at one time, Cartoon Network partnered with Rakesh Roshan's Filmkraft and Toonz Animation last year to air Kid Krrish, an animated variant of the silver-screen superhero Krrish. The franchise has had three films. The latest instalment, Mystery in Mongolia (aired in September, 2014) premiered with viewership of 348 TVTs.
Viacom18's efforts on similar lines is gaining steam now. Its second show developed in India, a chase comedy, Pakadam Pakdai, too, will see telefilms of its own in 2015.
It will now shift to Sonic, the other Viacom18 kids channel, from Nick, as part of its plan to position Sonic based on action and comedy content.
"The idea is to make the characters tangible and introduce them to newer settings away from Furfurinagar. One way of doing it is to have made-for-television movies. Sadly in India, animation as a theatrical genre, is yet to come of age. So, what we are doing is building a brand eco-system for the characters, away from the silver screen and when the time is right, we may see them on the big screen as well," says Jaipuria. Internationally, Nick has done it with some popular shows such as Spongebob Squarepants and Rugrats. Closer home, POGO, one of Turner's twin kids channels, has pulled off a massive transition, taking Chhota Bheem, which started life as an animated serial, to the silver screen and back to the small screen in the form of telefilms.
POGO released two Chhota Bheem movies on the big screen - Chhota Bheem and the Curse of the Damyaan in 2012 and Chhota Bheem and The Throne of Bali in 2013. While the former met with lukewarm response, the second instalment had a better run.
Jaipuria is, of course, eyeing the possibilities that a brand eco-system would afford. In the kids and youth animation world, Disney, its sister brand, Marvel, and DC Comics have pulled off seamless multi-media eco-systems around characters originally developed for one medium. Nick in India could even pave the way for theme food parks around its own characters.
Viacom18 has already taken Motu and Patlu to its other channels for integration such as on the celebrity dance show Jhalak Dikhlaaja on Colors, its Hindi general entertainment channel. They have also featured in the channel's on-ground promotions.
"We aim to give 'money can't buy' experiences to our viewers through activities. With 'Be the Boss', five kids from across the country got to meet these characters, interact with them. That is what I mean by making these characters tangible. These on-ground activations extend these brands further. We actively look at licensing deals, promotional tie-ups and in-show brand placement. The fact that we own the characters' intellectual property rights lets us experiment freely," says Jaipuria.
Motu Patlu has also incorporated branded content, showing brands such as Horlicks or Diamond Rings, a packaged snack, being consumed by some of the characters.
For another popular import, Ninja Hattori, Nick collaborated with Hajmola and actor Ajay Devgn for the launch of the digestive candy's guava flavour. An animated version of Devgn was seen interacting with Ninja in Hajmola's TV ad, with Devgn lending his voice.
According to industry sources, Viacom18's kids channels grew at almost 20 per cent year on year in revenue, while the category grew by 14 per cent. In terms of ratings, these channels have grown 21 per cent in April-November, 2014.
Though, the big leap for Viacom18's kids channels would be when their characters move to the silver screen much like Chhota Bheem.