Chennai-based ChuChu TV Nursery Rhymes and Kids Songs, an online channel for pre-school kids became the biggest in this segment on YouTube with 17.5 million subscribers earlier this year.
Its eight channels offer four languages – Tamil, Spanish, French and Portuguese. Their total number of subscribers is over 25 million, up from 14.3 million last year, according to Vidooly, a video intelligence firm. It is now, after T-Series and SET India, the third most subscribed YouTube channel in India and among the 100 most subscribed globally.
Vinoth Chandar, co-founder, chief executive officer and creative director, explains: “Most of the numbers are from YouTube because Roku, Amazon or other platforms don’t give statistics.”
Even if they did, the fact is that more than 80% of the traffic for ChuChu TV comes from YouTube. Every strategic investor who has checked it out worries about its ability to scale beyond YouTube, online and beyond pre-school children.
As a reference, they point to the Rs 37.8 billion revenue of Viacom18, which has a robust kids business on television with Nick, Sonic and others which develop characters such as Motu-Patlu. Till last year, these TV characters were bringing in more than a fifth of the traffic on its video app Voot, plus revenue from consumer products featuring them.
ChuChu TV’s biggest strength is its dominance in the pre-school space on YouTube. This puts it in a good spot in the Rs 119 billion digital advertisement market which Google, YouTube’s owner, dominates. Usually, it shares half or more of the revenue YouTube generates with content creators.
But, this also exposes ChuChu TV to the vagaries of the Google algorithm, which could change any day. Since BARC, the TV rating agency in India, doesn’t measure pre-school viewership separately television is not a viable alternative in an ad-driven market.
ChuChu TV’s founders spent the better part of last year addressing some of these issues. In December 2017, it launched a subscription-driven video app that has had 500,000 downloads globally, claims Chandar. It continues to add subscribers from Canada, Australia and the US.
Later this year, it will add Hindi, Telugu, Russian and Arabic channels. It had tied up with entertainment licensing firm Dream Theatre to bring out toys based on ChuChu TV's characters such as Harlo, Plucky and Spotty. These will hit the stores in November, says Chandar.
ChuChu TV is also producing a web-series based on each alphabet, which it will soon release online and on broadcast TV.
“Content-wise, we have moved a lot into education,” says Chandar. That explains its rise within the YouTube ranks, too. Subrat Kar, co-founder of Vidooly, says, “Kids as a category is not defined in the YouTube Categorisation. This is why you will find all the kid YouTube channels in the ‘education’ category.”
ChuChu TV started in 2013 when Chandar wanted to amuse his 30-month old daughter Harshita or ChuChu. The Chennai-based techie made an animation character based on her that sang nursery rhymes and songs, set to specially composed music.
Chandar’s daughter loved it and so did thousands of children from around the world when these surfaced online. From that to eight channels in four languages and 100 countries has been a long journey, though Chandar refuses to divulge revenue.
“We are making decent revenue now and are profitable,” says Chandar. If he is not raising money why should the ranking matter? “For us, these numbers signal that the category continues to grow,” he says pointing out that more than 1,000 kids channels were launched online last year. “Yet, we continue to get 30,000-40,000 subscribers (across all channels) a day.”