Shinmin Bali
Mar 21, 2014

‘It’s important that you put commerce and content in the right order'

Q&A with Mark Eyers, chief content officer, Turner International Apac, and Krishna Desai, director and network head - kids, South Asia, Turner International India

‘It’s important that you put commerce and content in the right order'

Mark Eyers, chief content officer, Turner International Apac, and Krishna Desai, ED and network head - kids, South Asia, Turner International India, talk about how localised content is the way to go, why digitisation hasn’t affected the Turner brand greatly and Turner’s plans to work towards branded content.

How much of content on Indian channels is produced locally?

Mark Eyers: We follow a strategy across Apac where 80 per cent of the Cartoon Network content is common or shared content. And we must remember that as part of a global, successful brand, it is important to be consistent and more importantly to meet our two major criteria. Firstly, it must fit our brand DNA and that’s very much about creating surprising content and universal comedy. Secondly, making sure that it is unique.

Probably about 20 per cent of content on Cartoon Network India is locally focused and a very good example is Roll No 21, which is now heading into its seventh season.

Pogo would perhaps be the opposite of Cartoon Network, as it still has more of local content. Also, the strategy we have adopted at Pogo is a bit broader than that at Cartoon Network, as Pogo has evolved into more of a ‘general entertainment for kids’ channel. So you’ll see some young content, then you also have a great movie franchise; but then that’s more of a part of Cartoon Network.

The movie franchise: Are they mostly original productions?

Mark Eyers: It’s a combination of both. Along with great acquisitions, we also have long form productions of original content. Mighty Raju would be an apt example of this and we’re very proud of it as well as our acquisitions.

How big is Turner International’s content  business in different markets?

Mark Eyers:  We are global content providers. Some TV content is syndicated to some third parties across Apac. In certain markets, content is supplied to HBO. But currently, we as a company are focusing on branding content.

What is the scope of branded content in the kid’s genre? The 10+2 ad cap in India is pending implementation: How do you see its impact?

Mark Eyers: I don’t see India as an island and it is part of an integrated plan. One good example of branded content is Mixels that we just launched. It launched at the same time around the world (as it did in India).

With regards to the 10+2 ad cap: Please remember that we’re very much a two-pillar company with both subscription and advertising revenue. So working in this ad-cap environment is not a big concern for us.

Going back to branded content, we have adopted what we call a 361 degree (360+1) approach. As a media content company, you have to put in that extra bit of effort to be successful these days, and it’s important that you put commerce and content in the right order. If you make great content, the commerce or capital will follow. Great examples of this being Lego and Barbie, both of which we have partnered with. It may be about branded content but it has to be the sort of content that is compelling and engaging.

Krishna Desai: Turner, specifically, does not stand to be greatly affected by the 10+2 ad cap. But it may affect those broadcasters that used to breach the 20-minute mark. We’ve always been in the 12 to 14-minute range. The only thing is that we have to make sure that the ads conform to the 12-minute rule. We just have to be more precise about it but it won’t affect us in a large way.

Mark Eyers: In fact, if I could add to that, there are a few things that are always cognisant of - the experience of the audience must also be kept in sight.

From what Turner terms as their first, second and third screens, what is the share of viewership globally and how do you view it in India?

Mark Eyers: You get into a long-tail effect as you go. It is safe to say, particularly in India, that the single TV household still dominates. What would be more interesting to see is the percentage of viewership.

But the second and third screens are actually complimentary to the first and that is the biggest take away that we’ve seen - not only in this market but in many across the world. And in many markets, a lot of people would be talking about convergence and cutting cords or running for the hills. But from what we’ve seen, TV viewership has not been going down except in one or two markets in Europe. Overall, TV viewership is still incredibly strong and complimentary.

What is Turner’s strategy in developing the second and third screens further?

Mark Eyers: To keep it complimentary and make sure that the viewership remains in an ecosystem in which it currently thrives, you need to be out there with innovative strategies. Because if you don’t have compelling content on the first screen, it just won’t work because you still need to live up to your DNA. We recently launched the ‘Watch and Play’ space online, where you actually watch the channel and play games. If you’re an authenticated viewer, you can watch the channel. But if you’re not, you can still watch clips and exclusives and that we think complements the viewership.

How does Turner plan to monetise the kids brands?

Mark Eyers: The great thing is, people are prepared to pay for an experience. Over a period of time, you will see demand for our content in HD, on apps etc.

I see a shift like we’re already seeing in the US, where we’re going to see non-traditional categories coming on to the kid’s space. You’re going to see things like insurance companies coming in to advertise. This will only get bigger and bring in other advertising categories. Let’s not forget that kids have a lot of say in families these days.

With re-emergence of iconic franchises, how do you see these co-existing with locally created content?

Mark Eyers: Within the common content, we have new episodes of Tom and Jerry, which is an example of evolution of a series. That’s still international content. It is part of the overall strategy and we’re not going to sacrifice international content for local (or vice versa).

We look at our channels across all dimensions and so we wouldn’t differentiate within the categories. Local or otherwise, it is better to have more ideas than money. So our attention is not necessarily polarised between local or international. We need to have plenty of irons in the fire. Having said that, we have to find a great blend of both kinds of content.

Campaign India

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