Growing Demand For Animation Content In India

In the face of an unprecedented global situation, the onus now lies on animation producers to recognise the position of responsibility they hold, and focus on creating content that elevates the screen experience of their viewers, rather than merely entertaining them.

As the coronavirus continues to disrupt the normal flow of life around the world, industries across the spectrum have begun to adapt to what is likely to be the new normal for a long time to come. Nowhere has this change been more critical than in the media and entertainment industry. With lockdown being an ongoing reality for millions of families in India and beyond, the media has become one of the only ways to keep people connected to and engaged with the world outside.

The importance of the Media and Entertainment (M&E) segment is clearly visible in a number of consumer behaviour trends that have emerged since the lockdown’s inception. TV and OTT consumption have both seen massive spikes, as viewers turned to the only source of entertainment left available to them. In particular, movies and news channels have surged ahead of their counterparts in the general entertainment category across dayparts in prime time slots.

Simultaneously, both indigenous and international OTT platforms have seen subscriber numbers skyrocket – while Amazon Prime and Netflix have both had subscriber numbers increase by over 60 percent, local counterparts such as Zee Entertainment Enterprises’ ZEE5 and Balaji Telefilms’ ALTBalaji have risen by 80 and 60 percent respectively.  

But perhaps the greatest shift in viewing and consumption patterns has been witnessed amongst children. According to data compiled by television monitoring agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), the children’s genre has witnessed a 39% growth since the start of the lockdown. Channels dedicated exclusively to children’s content have seen even higher viewership spikes. ZEE5 Kids registered a 200 percent increase in viewership during the first month of the lockdown, while VOOT Kids saw its figure rise sevenfold in the same time period.

These figures align with pre-existing trends in the kid’s media segment, albeit driven to new heights due to the ongoing effects of the lockdown gripping much of the country. Even prior to the pandemic, a number of global studies have highlighted the ever-growing numbers of children venturing online every day, with PricewaterhouseCoopers estimating that they comprised over 40% of the total new internet users in 2018.

This shift towards digital sources of entertainment, when combined with ease of access and a multitude of platforms both digital and traditional from which to choose, have combined to create an environment ideal for the rise of dedicated children’s content. With schools across the nation remaining shut and social distancing measures being strictly enforced, the ways in which children can spend their time have been further limited, thus driving many to seek entertainment through animated content on digital platforms.

The inevitable increase in their children’s screen time witnessed by most parents has given rise to a wide variety of competing opinions as to the best way to handle the situation. Some have suggested capping the number of hours children are allowed to spend in front of a screen. Instead, they recommend teaching their children a new skill or busying them with household chores. Proponents of reading posit this as the ideal scenario in which to inculcate a lasting love of books. And while all of these suggestions are laudable, what many have seemingly overlooked is the positive potential for learning and growth that animated mediums hold.
With children watching more animated material than ever before, now is the ideal time to harness the power of good content to positively impact the generation of tomorrow. Animation can impart many lessons, as the rich history of the medium can attest to. From the timeless messages of love, family, and acceptance espoused by Disney’s vast library to Pixar’s handling of more mature themes such as the acceptance of loss and handling failure, there is no shortage of examples to draw from. As these movies have shown us, the medium has the capacity to impart complex lessons and render even the driest of subject matters in an engaging, easily digestible form. Exposing children to these lessons also helps foster their emotional development, and shapes their sense of morality and code of ethics during a formative period in their life.

Another key advantage of animated content is its potential as a medium through which crucial life lessons can be imparted. With schools and playgrounds remaining closed and exams being postponed or cancelled in their entirety, parents were presented with an opportunity to shift their children's focus from book-learning to emotional and ethical development. Unfortunately, many parents have been unable to do so, burdened as they are with the responsibility of running a household while also working from home. In a situation like this, animated content and channels such as Youtube are perfectly poised to fill this gap.

As such, there’s an added responsibility on animation content to provide educational and linguistic support for their young audiences learning from home. Instead of merely seeking to entertain, animation should improve children’s learning abilities and encourage their curiosity in the world around them, while ensuring that it doesn’t disrupt or detrimentally impact their development as a whole.

In the face of an unprecedented global situation, the onus now lies on animation producers to recognise the position of responsibility they hold, and focus on creating content that elevates the screen experience of their viewers, rather than merely entertaining them.

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