With Marvel HQ channel, Disney is looking to tap the action/ adventure space

Given that Marvel has grown into becoming a pop-culture phenomenon in the country, Disney India will be launching a television destination for the brand in India. Marvel HQ will be home to all things Marvel and will be the first window to the world of Marvel for the kids in India. The channel is also a fresh new offering to the super-hero action seeking and Marvel fans across the country. 

The channel aims to transport viewers into the world of epic storytelling told through inspiring characters and will reach out to kids 9+ (boys and girls) introducing them to the world of Marvel and also bring in youth and audiences who are fans of Marvel animation and the movies. The content will include animation series as well as live-action movies. 

Over the last decade the popularity, affinity has been growing, we’re now seeing it transcend age groups, cities, geographies. It's a great opportunity to initiate something new with Marvel and it’s all based on the core Marvel promise of epic storytelling with human spirit. There are over 8,000 characters in the Marvel Universe being created all the time. 

Marvel’s legacy is stemmed from comic books, which have historically been everyone’s first touchpoint into the Marvel Universe. But for India it has been mainly through the movies and the series. 

Marvel has also been creating a strong connect through the merchandising route, with 35 million+ products sold last year at retail. 

This is for the first time that a special TV destination has been created for Marvel as it allows everyone to have exposure and access, besides creating a first experience for a user. As Devika Prabhu, Executive Director and Head - Product Media Networks, Disney India, said, “Marvel has content over different platforms, but with Disney it’s all about experience. We wanted to create a curated Marvel experience on TV. It is going to transport viewers into the world of epic storytelling told through inspiring characters. It is multidimensional, high intensity, high octane storytelling.” 

Adgully caught up with Devika Prabhu to know more about the strategy behind launching Marvel branded channel. According to Prabhu, “I think with new platforms there are new opportunities for viewers to commit. The thing about Marvel storytelling and why it works in this interconnected world is because it gives new viewers an opportunity to come to the story. I don’t believe that everybody has seen everything. I believe that when you watch something curated for you, you enjoy the experience more.” 

Following are excerpts from the interaction: 

What’s the thought behind launching a separate channel for Marvel?
We believe it is time for such a channel. With the Disney channel we have the kids and family angle, with Marvel it gives us the opportunity to tap into the action/ adventure space. Seeing the popularity of Marvel, I think there is a need to have a base and a home front. 

Usually such launches are done during the holidays or closer to school vacations. Why launch it so close to the exam season?
The launch is more about building a base over the next few months, so that by the time the summer vacations begin, the base is already there. The users would have got habituated to the content by then. 

How challenging will it be to launch amid strong, established players?
If there is a market out there that wants this kind of content, then they will find a way to see it. 

Who is your TG for Marvel HQ? Will it clash with the TG for your other kids’ channels?
The Marvel TG is everybody who loves Marvel. Having a separate platform for Marvel helps us break down the universe and help new viewers understand. That is going to be our endeavour – make Marvel HQ the platform to go to for people who love Marvel but don’t necessarily know all about it and want to know more. 

What would be your content strategy for Marvel HQ?
We are currently starting off with 40 per cent of the schedule as Marvel content accompanying the launch and as we go forward, we will think of growing that. The thrust will be the summer season. 

I don’t really think viewers look at genres. They look at the story. They don’t see a Spiderman live action movie or Spiderman animated series as separate entities. 

The series will be animated, while the live action will be in the form of movies. The objective is to have a home for all things Marvel. 

What is unique is the option to shoot in multiple languages, which is not something that a lot of other categories can do. We will simultaneously broadcast in 4 languages – English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu – so viewers can choose a language of their preference. 

What would be your marketing strategy for the new platform?
We have an extensive multi-media plan. Currently our focus is on creating a base for our viewers as well as a base for Marvel HQ. 

Are you looking at merchandising options for India?
We are looking at consumer engagement activities and will share the details as we go forward. 

Will you at localisation of the channel at some point or is Marvel at such a level that you don’t need to do so?
I think right now Marvel is at such a level that it feels local already. If you talk to anybody who has watched any Marvel movie, especially the way it is dubbed and the kind of references that are there, you will realise why it has become so prominent; it is because how we connect with it. The objective of localisation is to connect with the people. 

Can we look forward to a local super-hero in the Marvel universe?
It’s a new base; right now we have got 8,000 super-heroes to manage! Marvel characters are spontaneously recalled, and most of them are high in affinity as well. Obviously, the popular ones are those who form the Avengers; everybody’s been seeing them for the last 10 years, the most popular ones being Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Spiderman. Spiderman, I think, for the longest time has been the first Marvel super-hero in India and a lot of us grew up with him. 

What have been the significant viewership trends in the kids’ genre in 2018?
Kids like to be surprised, they like new concepts, they want to see a lot of things that surprise them – something unexpected, something to do with today’s technology pounded into a wall that they understand, and they are very happy to keep watching what they love. Kids need aspirational characters, someone they want to look up to – negative or positive, it doesn’t matter. They want someone to emulate, someone to be when they role play. It’s all about role play for kids, especially those below the age of 8, where they adopt the persona. Therefore, they need characters that they can connect with. 

Do you think OTT has become the first screen of choice in single TV homes, where the mobile becomes the platform for viewership?
Kids will watch content wherever it is made available to them. So, it really depends on what their dynamics are and where they are. Kids adapt very well, so it’s unlikely to change. 

Having said that, television is still the biggest platform of reach in the country. If you want to build something, if you want to reach out to everyone, and linear platforms are your answer. 

As far as OTT programming for Marvel HQ channel goes, at this point in time we are considering it as a linear platform.


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