| 21 Mar 2018
2011: Defining year for the music genre

MUMBAI: Year 2011 was special for the youth and music channels in more than one way. For starters, the genre grew with the advent of focused new players, and also came of age as channels clearly selected the model they want to follow.

If 2010 was the year of uncertainty for the genre, 2011 was the Buddha moment, when the players found the light, the path and, most importantly, the business model.

So far the category was suffering with the biggest limitation - no scope for differentiation as every channel had access to the same pool of music. But 2010 end was a watershed moment, after which viewers started witnessing an urge amongst the players to be, for the lack of a better word, different.

Finally, in 2011, the two clear categories emerged within the genre - one was pure play music and other was youth centric channels.

The clear distinction or segregation happened with the launch of pure play music channels like Mix and MTunes. This channel brigade was led-by 9XM with other players including B4U Music, Music India and, up to some extent, Mastiii. Meanwhile, the youth genre found stability on the tri-pad of MTV, Channel [V] and UTV Bindass.

Though executives of all of these channels differ on their content strategies and business models, they all agree that this genre is extremely competitive and in order to reach their target audience, they need to be far more than a mere TV channel.

The biggest challenge is that the genre is highly fragmented and is marred with low viewership. As it is, music is no longer the mainstay of music channels. So experimentation by the youth channels continued in 2011. While Channel [V] found solace in fiction properties, MTV went for a mix of reality along with non-film music. UTV Bindass targeted youth from campuses and also focused on relationships.

Similarly, among the pure play channels, while 9XM continued serving latest Bollywood music with the animated characters, Mastiii had comedy gags to retain audiences. Mix, the four-month-old channel, opted for mood mapping and is working on improving its distribution.

The genre now has 19 players and they are fighting for an ad pie between Rs 3.5-4 billion yearly and a share of 200-240 GRPs (gross rating points)on a per week basis. Thankfully, the music space has undergone transformation and today they have some differentiated content and not the same generic content - be it music or reality shows.

UTV Bindass business head Keith Alphonso says, "Finally, after 14 years, the genre has matured in 2011. We have taken the positioning of a youth channel and it is a three-horse race - MTV, UTV Bindass and Channel [V]. Though every channel is creating its niche, we have decided that we want to own the three verticals which are close to heart of the youth - campus, relations and music. For us, it is important to emerge as a brand."

But the question remains: How will the music and youth channels survive with such competition? Answers MTV India EVP and business head Aditya Swamy, "Unlike general entertainment channels, youth genre is not sold on GRPs. In any case, the difference between the top and the eighth player will be less than 10 GRPs. Advertisers and clients look at what more we are putting on the table; its always GRP++. And so, we give them much beyond TV. We give social media, digital etc as we are engaging our consumers on multiple platforms."

Agrees Channel [V] EVP and GM Prem Kamath, "First I think calling this genre niche is a big oxymoron. Youth constitutes 60 per cent of total population. Everyone is targeting them, so definitely its not niche. But, having said that, the problem with the genre is that with only music, there is a certain level you can grow. Best chances are you can get up to 30-35 GRPs. Yes, you can make some money if you are on top, but there is no growth."

About Channel [V]'s decision of entering into fiction, he says, "Our offerings are customised for the youth. The two fiction properties are top rated shows and in certain markets, they rate even higher than shows on the GECs."

Among the three youth channels, Channel [V] plays least amount of music. It has only two bands -- 8-11 am and 4-6 pm - reserved for music.

Kamath explains, "Today the maximum consumption of music is happening over the phone or music players. Secondly, it is same everywhere and exclusive music is not working as it is not monetiseable. Plus we do not want just a visual radio."

Interestingly, the genre suffers from a very low time spent of around 25 minutes per week. Even FM radio stations become a competition for the channels, given the passive listening that is happening with pure music channels.

"The biggest challenge is to increase the time spent on the channel. The average time spent on our channel is 28-30 minutes per week, but that needs to grow. Secondly, the whole genre is struggling to get the due respect from viewers as well as advertisers," Max EVP and business head Neeraj Vyas says.

Vyas adds that in order to increase the stickiness and to get appointment viewing, the channel will have more format shows, and Mix will be a platform for the singers and other musicians.