EXCLUSIVE | Uttam Pal Singh, Discovery Kids: Strong IPs will continue to power Discovery Kids channel in 2021


After three record-breaking Kaal movies with Kaal ka Badla being the highest rated Indian animation movie in 2020, Discovery unveiled the 4th edition of this successful franchise Kaal Ki Shatir Chaal, and the great success of both – the channel and the franchise, is credited to Uttam Pal Singh, Head – Discovery Kids.

Uttam’s experience of nearly 20 years in the Kids’ content and animation industry fuelled the rise of Discovery Kids in ranking, ratings, popularity. His creative vision is also behind the successful launch of popular Bollywood IPs Little Singham and Fukrey Boyzzz on Discovery Kids.

Before Discovery, Uttam worked with leading broadcasters, advertising agencies, and brands like Cartoon Network, POGO, The Walt Disney Company, Channel [v], MTV, Star TV, Hungama TV, O&M, Leo Burnette, McDonald’s, and Future Group.

In a freewheeling chat with MediaBrief, Uttam shares insights on how Discovery Kids has been investing in the Indian animation industry, about the channel’s successful IPs, its recent release Kaal Ki ShatirChaal, about the challenges and opportunities present in the Kids genre, and more.

Discovery Kids’ plan for 2021

image-EXCLUSIVE-Uttam-Pal-Singh-Discovery-Kids-mediabrief-5.jpgOn Discovery Kids’ plan to refresh 2021 with the new slate of kids’ content, Uttam says, “In Q2 we have about 15 movies, bringing back-to-back launches every week as well as lots of new episodes. We started with Little Singham Kaal Ki Shatir Chaal, which is one of our premiere content pieces, which we followed with kids’ favourite comic character Choocha’s birthday on 1st April with a blockbuster, Bhaago Choocha Aaya, marking our entry into the spooky-comedy genre with the Fukrey Boyzzz franchise.

“We’re building on some of our existing franchisees within the IPs we have created. Desh Ka Sipahi, which has been a very popular franchise with Little Singham will see our favourite little hero go on more missions with the armed forces,” Uttam says.

“Taking on from the first movie, Vanar Sena 2 will continue to see the FukreyBoyzzz who are now a part of Hanumanji’s Vanar Sena face some bigger challenges, with each story having a unique message in the end.

“We have Little Singham Super Squad 2 coming up, where Little Singham along with his super friends from different parts of the country, come together to go on a new mission. We’ll also see Little Singham go on international adventures and into a fantasy world, meet new characters and, this is something which we’ve never done before.

Uttam says Discovery Kids also has ‘some exciting new line-ups celebrating India’s diversity’. These, he says, are “under the I Love my India theme, starting with the celebration of GudiPadwa and the Tamil New Year festival on Discovery Kids. We’re trying to build these unique stories within the Little Singham universe to showcase our country’s diversity to our younger audiences, so a kid sitting in Gujarat or Punjab can understand and appreciate how Puthandu, Tamil New Year, is celebrated or what GudiPadwa means. And we feel very proud to present these stories!”


Celebrated locally-produced IPs of Discovery Kids

On Discovery Kids’ innovative and celebrated locally produced and conceptualized Bollywood IPs, Uttam, says, “Both our flagship IPs Little Singham and Fukrey Boyzzz are conceptualized and produced locally. As a network, we are committed to investing in the Indian animation industry by associating with the best content creators, writers, producers and developing IPs and characters that are relatable and differentiated.

“Through our tie-ups with Netflix, these IPs are also accessible to an international audience. However, our key focus is Indian and South Asia.”


Brand integrations and advertiser sentiment

With the summer season underway, we ask Uttam about advertiser sentiments for the season and the promising categories in the kids genre. He says, “Advertiser sentiment has been very positive on the entire kids genre, and on Discovery Kids with its tremendous growth and very strong IPs. Little Singham’s association with Hershey’s Jolly Rancher Lollypops is a successful benchmark, and the partnership continues.

“The Ed-tech category and brands like BYJU’S, White-Hat Jr have been very actively advertising with us. We are also working on very exciting brand integrations and unique content solutions to bring more value to the brands and advertisers,” he adds.

Key challenges, opportunities in the Kids genre

On the challenges and opportunities that the Kids genre television business presents, Uttam, says, “Kids Genre on linear TV has been growing year on year, adding new audiences and viewership benchmarks. Broadcasters continue to invest in local content and building IPs like never before, helping build a unique content creation eco-system a story unique to India.”

Continued audience engagement is a major priority. Uttam says, “India is a huge market, and the full potential of the Kids genre in this market is still to be un-locked. Challenges would be to keep the audience engaged and keep building value on the platform.”


Kaal Ki Shatir Chaal

For the premiere of Kaal Ki Shatir Chaal, Discovery Kids rolled out many innovative initiatives such as a 12-hour Fan Quiz and Kaal Fan Fest. On these initiatives, Uttam says, “Little Singham has been by far one of our most popular franchises. Where our little super cop along with his friends and even the villains have created a special place in the hearts of our younger audiences.”

“Even though Kaal for all intents and purposes is a villain has managed to become a really popular character from the franchise. So, with the film, we wanted to celebrate this character and the fans who enjoy his encounters with their favorite little hero with the Kaal Fan Fest.

“Co-Powered by BYJU’S and Britannia Tiger Krunch, we launched a hunt for the Biggest Kaal Fan through a nonstop 12-Hour Fan Quiz on Discovery Kids Channel, giving viewers a chance to win prizes every hour with Kaal ka Sabse Bada Fan being featured through a video across Discovery Kids’ social channels. We have the results. Also, Kaal Fan Fest had an amazing response and the movie premiere was the biggest blockbuster of the week.

Little Singham Kaal Ka Badla, was one of the highest-rated movies in kids’ television in 2020.and continues to be one of the top rating movies, with reruns still topping the ratings chart in the entire genre,” Uttam says.

“Kaalas a villain really captured kids’ imaginations. Kaal Ki Shatir Chaal is the 4th instalment tele-feature in the entire saga of Little Singham vs Kaal. The premiere was the blockbuster of the week, validating Discovery Kids’ connect with the audience and our strong position in the kids genre,” he adds.


Kids’ pester-power

As a channel that markets to both – the consumers (kids) and the customer (parents), Discovery Kids attract a lot of brands across categories; even brands that do not produce goods specifically for children. Uttam attributes this to the pester power of kids, saying, “Kids do not have purchasing power but they do have a considerable amount of influence on household decisions. Parents want the best for their kids.

“So our goal is to create appeal for the younger audiences while posing a unique value proposition to their guardians and parents. With our content, our aim is to achieve co-viewing where parents and kids can watch it together in a safe environment and strength the family bond,” he says.

Learnings from the lockdown

Uttam shares learning from the lockdown concerning kids’ viewing patterns. “Discovery Kids has grown 35-40%, while the genre grew by about 30%-32%, so the pandemic really helped Discovery Kids over skew on the viewership front. However, the revenue or the monetization on that viewership was still impacted. So, it was more of a bittersweet situation, but we have recovered very fast and are on a path of healthy growth from both — viewership and the revenue point of view.”

MediaBrief view: The lockdown seems set to continue due to the unfortunate increase in the number of new COVID cases, so the captive audiences remain – indeed, and unfortunately,  literally too — captive, and Discovery Kids can look forward to ever more rewarding engagements that entertain kids and their parents alike, and empower businesses. The enormous experience and insights that Uttam Pal Singh brings to the table, empowered by the Discovery network’s unstinting investments in great content and its marketing and customer awareness and acquisition, will only strengthen the growth curve for Discovery Kids.