Due to the channel’s reach in the US, Chuchu TV claims* to be the only kids channel to be featured on the YouTube Kids app in the US. The company claims to have garnered 300,000 in 20-25 days for its first video on YouTube in 2013. Chuchu TV currently has a subscriber base of 1,888,041 subscribers and 2,094,006,026 views (at the time of writing this story). What does it take to cater to an audience in the age group of 0-5 years? In a conversation with MediaNama, Vinoth Chandar, the Founder of Chuchu TV talks about the channel’s content strategy, languages, geographies that drive traffic, mobile device traffic, YouTube Kids app, among others in the first part of this interview.
MediaNama: How many channels do you have on YouTube? What kind of content do you produce on each of these channels?
Chandar: We own only one channel, Chuchu TV, which is a pre-school kids channel. We do do animated videos on original nursery rhymes, animal songs, alphabet, numbers and the like for kids between 0-5 years.
MediaNama: What do the kids between 0-5 years want to watch?
Chandar: Kids love colours with some good music to move with the animation. That’s the thing that we cracked from our first video, which we did in July 2013. It garnered 300,000 views in less than a month. This was actually a pet project. Chuchu is my daughter’s nickname. I run a software company that develops games and apps for clients globally. I wanted to model content created on the channel after my daughter when she was two years old. She loved listening to nursery rhymes.
Back then, I had a gaming artist, so I made the artist sketch a character like her and tried animating it. So I created five characters like her and created an environment like a playground where kids usually play along with a nursery rhyme. Since the video was made, I decided to try it out on YouTube. I uploaded it and within 20-25 days, it had 300,000 views. That’s when I realized that people liked the content. Previously, I watched similar videos on YouTube with my daughter. Although the content was really good, there was still room for improvement. So then I made the first video, and then I made the second video and released it within the next two months.
Within the span of those two videos, we had 5,000 subscribers. We even got a call from YouTube saying, “You guys are doing great. You need to concentrate more on this.” We had only 3 people at that time. We immediately recruited more people and even trained many of them. So now, we have a 40-member team working for Chuchu TV.
MediaNama: What kind of training did you give them?
Chandar: We trained them in animation. My partner Krishnan and I decide on the creative aspects in the video. I do the music and he does the lyrics. We work on the concept together. I decide the graphic style and animation for the videos.
MediaNama: Where do you choose the stories to create content from? Or are they original ideas?
Chandar: Yes, our content is original. Even the nursery rhymes that we produce are rewritten by us. Many nursery rhymes have a negative subtext. For example, Ring a Ring o’ Roses is originally based on a plague that had broken out back then. This was a sarcastic rhyme about that plague. Similarly, there are many others. Humpty Dumpty is supposed to be a cannon during a British war that fell off the wall. We wanted to change these negative connotations.
NDTV had recently featured our version of the Jack & Jill rhyme. The original version says that they fell down and broke their leg. We added another paragraph saying where there is a will, there is a way. In our version, they successfully bring down the pile of water. It changed many things. So similarly, we don’t use the other nursery rhymes as they are. We change the concept and the lyrics. Everything is original from our end. This is precisely what made us popular. Basically we want to spread the values of sharing and caring.
Baa baa black sheep, the song was ignored in our country because it is a black sheep. There is a racist tinge to it. So we added a black, brown and white sheep to the video and also added the concept of sharing, caring and helping others. This became a big hit. This is how we adapt all nursery rhymes. Other than that, we write our own original songs – number songs, alphabet songs as well. We have taken old content and repackaged it with better and peppy music to suit the children of the new era.
Geographies and languages
MediaNama: Which are the geographies that you are targeting?
Chandar: Right now maximum views are from the U.S, second is India, then is U.K, Vietnam, Canada, Australia and Malaysia. We didn’t plan it but it turned out that way. We wanted to be global from day 1, not just India. And luckily, the content is consumed all around the world as planned.
MediaNama: When you say you get traffic from so many countries, which languages do you produce the content in?
Chandar: Only English. We are in talks with some people to do it in Spanish and in some Indian regional languages. We are also soon going to be starting a few more YouTube channels in English. We might start content in other languages, only in the next year.
MediaNama: What kind of content are you looking at for the upcoming channels?
Chandar: The channels will target the same audience pre-school kids but the content will be on different subjects, not just nursery rhymes. Kids are learning from our videos so we want to make it more educational.
MediaNama: What kind of educational content are you looking to provide kids between 0-5yrs
Chandar: We want to do something special and unique. I can’t divulge the content right now.
Mobile devices consumption
MediaNama: What devices are the kids are consuming this content on?
Chandar: First is mobile, then comes tablet, computer and finally television, smart TV.
MediaNama: Why do you think the consumption is higher on other devices than on a computer?
Chandar: Most people are on the move now. With the quality of graphics and devices, content looks good even on a mobile phone, iPhone or Android. It is small and easy to carry. Parents download or stream the videos from their mobile phones for their kids.
MediaNama: In terms of mobile device content consumption, isn’t network a problem at least in India?
Chandar: YouTube now comes with an offline mode wherein you can download a video and watch it offline for 48 hours. Last month, YouTube introduced that feature in India.
MediaNama: Do you have a lot of consumption happening through the offline mode? What kind of consumption patterns do you see in the offline mode?
Chandar: YouTube has still not started providing stats on the offline consumption. They have introduced this feature to the consumers, but they haven’t started providing the numbers on this feature to the content creators yet. We will get the numbers but it will take some time I guess.
MediaNama: What about YouTube kids? How does that app work?
Chandar: Yes, it is a big hit in the U.S. with over 8 million downloads. We are the only kids channel to be featured from India on that app. It is like a normal YouTube app without suggestions. The regular YouTube app gives a lot of suggestions based on the user patterns. For example, if the father browses some films, when the child searches for cartoons, he may be suggested some films. It might even be adult content. YouTube now has selected a few channels, only a specific number of channels and packaged them with a good UI. Kids can now watch just kids’ content, nothing else. Even the suggestions are kids’ content. There will be no outside content.
MediaNama: Is that the only difference between YouTube kids and the regular YouTube platform?Chandar: Yes that is the purpose of the app. We got a lot of complaints due to too many wrong suggestions as well. Parents complain that they cannot show our content to their kids so they wanted us to release DVDs, our own app etc. So YouTube decided to come out with an app to solve this problem in the U.S. The content can’t go wrong this way. It also has several parental controls. Using those controls, parents can stop the kids from watching this content for more than half hour, you can set the time limits etc. There are other similar features. I was in the US when it was launched in February.
MediaNama: In terms of business, is there a difference between regular YouTube and YouTube Kids? What difference does it make to you in terms of revenue?
Chandar: I don’t think it is going to be any different. We can actually be sure of it only after it is launched in India. Right now it is only in the US. It is the same monetization there. Except, the app has advertisements that are more relevant to kids. For example, a Pampers ad will be okay on a pre-school channel but not a deodorant ad. They are working towards to placing only kids related ads on kids’ content.
MediaNama: Being in India, will you be able to access the backend of the app? Or will you be able to access it only if you are in the U.S?
Chandar: I have been there twice after the launch. I download the reports and test it while I’m there. I try to optimize our content. We had to change some images to fit the app UI and make it look good on the app. So I made some changes on our channel so that it reflects better on the YouTube Kids channel.
MediaNama: Which are the devices on which this app is available?
Chandar: Mobile phones and iPad.
MediaNama: When is YouTube launching the YouTube Kids app in India?
Chandar: The app was expected to be launched this year end. I’m not too sure though.
* Chandar later wrote to us following the interview and said that ChchuTV is not the only Indian kids channel on YouTube kids.