Residents of the fictional Goa town of Mirchi Nagar are very concerned. The little town that everyone knows is constantly under attack. By whom Like everyone else. Local thieves, evil scientists, wild animals. The demons, too.
Fortunately, Mirchi Nagar is the new police in a hero-town. He fights like a lion. Roaring like a lion. A punch here, a kick there. Not completely scared. Although all these are just seven. His name is Little Singham.
The idea of television broadcaster discovery networks is one of the few Indian cartoon characters that has taken the Asia-Pacific and Little Singham children’s animation market by storm. And it did in just two months.
Based on the popular Hindi film Singham, the show debuted in April 2018. As of the first week of June, channel ratings were up 300% from the year before. The number of subscribers on Discovery’s YouTube channel, which airs short clips of the show, increased from 20,000 to 1,14,000 at the same time. “Little Singham borrowed from Bollywood. The focus is on creating a heroic character that children can see,” said Karan Bajaj, senior vice president and general manager at Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, a US-based Discovery Communications division.
It is also
Little Singham’s popularity is good news for Discovery. It’s also a shot for the entire children’s animation industry, which has been trying to evolve for decades. Traditionally, children’s animation in India has been dominated by foreign (dubbed) content-duck tales, Mickey Mouse and Flintstones. Meanwhile, Indian content is not getting into television, limiting the growth of the local animation industry.
Things are changing. As Little Singham has shown, media outlets now want to invest more in local children’s content. In the last 12-18 months, some new entrants to the Indian children’s content segment, most notably video streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime, Netflix and AltBology. Among traditional broadcasters, Sony Pictures Networks joined the party and launched a dedicated children’s TV channel in April 2017. The Government of India is also trying to get the upper hand.
With so many players chasing a two- to 14-year-old demographic, children’s entertainment rules are being rewritten. But the way forward is not simple. Creating original animated content is expensive, time consuming and laborious. And there is no guarantee of success. So, is this wave of desi animated offerings sustainable? Or does it come out in the face of challenges and competition?
Go local or go home
Little Singham has an interesting story. Discovery Kids debuted in 2012 and, like everyone else, mainly streamed foreign content.
Discovery Kids ranks tenth in its viewership ranking of 16 children’s channels in India till the beginning of this year. Discovery went all out to find an Indian character to revive the channel and draw ratings. The channel internally tested eight different characters. After they settled in Little Singham, they worked with production houses Reliance Animation and Rohit Shetty Pictures to bring the cartoon to life.
Unlike most companies that initially only commissioned 30-40 episodes to test the market, Discovery went out on a limb. The show employs over 200 people a year, producing 300 15-minute episodes and five 90-minute films. For a new, untested cartoon character, this is a huge leap of faith.
But with great risk comes great reward. At least this time. Discovery Kids jumped in the rankings. Although it was stabilized in the sixth rank, it has climbed to third for the first time since its inception in 2012. “We were successful before the show started. We did not expect it to be a hit soon. We have never worked on an Indian role at this level, ”Bajaj said.
Since then Discovery Kids has completely ignored foreign content.