Syahrizan Mansor, VP, Nickelodeon Brand, Asia, Viacom International Media Networks

Syahrizan Mansor, Vice President, Nickelodeon Brand, Asia, Viacom International Media Networks, talks about surfacing content, improving discoverability, YouTube, IP and rights, Asia's acquisition habits, monetising kids content and what the biggest influences in 2020...

Discoverability is as much an issue among kids programmers as among any other genre in the streaming universe. Do you have a preferred strategy for surfacing content? 
"We use various apps to obtain data on what’s working and what’s not. In addition, we work closely with streaming platforms for insight into viewing patterns and preferences unique to those platforms. Among the steps that we take on our end include optimising our metadata and descriptions to capture potential viewers, offering language options, and building engagement and sharing on our owned and operated social platforms and partners’ platforms. And THUMBNAILS, THUMBNAILS, THUMBNAILS."

Is there anything you wish platforms would do to improve discoverability?
"We’d love for platforms to share viewing data about our programming, especially since now streaming platforms are becoming a lot more competitive. For us to really cater to what viewers want, we need to dive deeper beyond just subscriber numbers – we would like to know the content mix that viewers are watching, duration of watch time, etc." 

If kids, as is commonly thought, live mostly on YouTube, what’s your approach to streaming video? Do you have a YouTube-first policy? If you do, can you say why? If not, can you also say why.
"Currently, our YouTube strategy is focused on using the platform as a consumption and marketing tool vs long-form distribution platforms. For example, we premiered the first episode of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on YouTube to create buzz around the show, but ultimately drive viewers to catch the subsequent episodes on our linear channel. We also need to protect the interests of our affiliate/streaming partners, so we don’t premiere everything on YouTube. The YouTube-first strategy is something that we are exploring in order to build reach, which is what advertisers are looking for. There are still questions around YouTube but we hope it will deliver a service that is a safer place for our kids shows to be made available."

Are you seeing any significant changes in the way kids buyers are acquiring content in/for Asia?
"There is definitely an appetite and demand on streaming and FTA platforms in Asia. With that, buyers are not only looking to acquire but also to co-produce local kids content with brands like us."

Did monetising kids content in Asia become more difficult in 2019? Why? 
"From a content perspective, I don’t think so. Legacy and credibility go a long way, and Nickelodeon is a trusted brand known for our shows and IPs. We launched Nick Play on Telkomsel last year and we’ve also licensed our shows on streaming platforms such as Netflix."

Do you think it will become easier to monetise kids content in 2020?
"We definitely hope so, as the demand for kids content will continue to grow."

What do you think will have the biggest influence on kids programming (production and distribution) in Asia in 2020? 
"From a production point of view – compelling stories that are authentic and innovative in the approach. It can have its own ecosystem, for example from content to events to licensing and merchandising. From a distribution point of view, it has to be able to sit across different platforms, so it needs to be available in both short and long form. Consumers will also play a part. Parents would influence how much screen time their kid has; for younger kids, parents typically screen or identify content that they want their kids to watch, so factors like a safe environment and a trusted brand will be important."

What industry sector in Asia acquires the most from you (free-TV, pay-TV, streaming, other)?
"It’s pretty equal across all sectors."

How have rights negotiations for kids content changed in the past year or so? 
"Exclusivity is important in some markets especially for streaming platforms. A few years back, that was not necessarily the case."

How critical is licensing and merchandising to your business in Asia? Will this change in 2020? 
"Licensing and merchandising has always been part of our business ecosystem, and it will continue to be a priority for us in 2020."

Excerpts of this interview were published in ContentAsia's print magazine for the ATF 2019