RadioandMusic
| 23 Jul 2019
INX Media head of music and ent. channels Vikas Varma - We have invaded the GEC space

Having completed one musical year, 9XM has occupied the number one position in the music channel category in the country. If we go by the TAM data last week, the channel has occupied the ninth position in the General Entertainment Category. In a conversation with Radioandmusic.com's Anita Iyer, INX Media's Head of Music and Entertainment Channels Vikas Varma speaks about the channel's positioning, experimenting with animated characters, it's no- VJs stance and plans for the year ahead.

After one year in the market, where does 9XM stand? How much of the market share does the channel occupy in the music channel category?

We are undoubtedly the number one music channel according to the TAM ratings in the 15-24 segment. If 9XM is compared to other channels with youth demographics, we occupy over 41 per cent occupying the seventh position in the youth category. Even in the GEC Category, our music channel occupies ninth position on par with the Sony, Star ands Zee channel, according to TAM data last week. So, it doesn't really make sense anymore to compare us only with music channels.

Can you define your music content?

Our music format is back to back contemporary Bollywood hit pe hit music. We also include songs which are two to three years old; however we do not include older songs as we consider them as 'Retro'. Also, it is not about what we play, but how we play the music, the display of colours and banners on the screen make them more appealing. Watching 9XM is a fun viewing experience with all those animated characters providing comic relief and entertaining viewers when no music is played.

You were the first ones to introduce animated characters on music channel. How has the experiment worked for you?

We were the first ones to launch animated characters. Nobody has made an effort earlier as making animated characters is expensive, difficult and time consuming.
The real challenge was to make characters which would excite audiences across all demographics and break the perception that animations and cartoons are meant for kids. People don't seem to be bored of our animated characters, rather they can't get over it and demand more of it. We would be airing some more animated characters very soon.

When other music channels have glamourous VJs, do you plan to stick to your ÔÇ?No VJ' motto?

VJs tend to age with time and we would not like to put them on air. Also, our channels have the most glamorous faces and I believe VJs aren't more glamorous than the Bollywood stars on our screen. The whole concept of VJs looked cool about five years back but today audiences do not really have time to listen to their chatter. I believe VJs interrupt the music and talk more than is required. Our animated characters on the other hand, occupy the screen only for 30-50 seconds without interrupting the flow of music.

On many music channels, VJs are instrumental in facilitating interactivity with the audiences?

We do have a ticker at the bottom of our screens which guarantees interaction with the viewers. Since the time of our inception, we have been receiving 25,000 SMSes each day. Also, we have interaction on our parallel medium, the viewers can download ringtones, wallpapers, e-cards and play contests online.

Many channels have ringtone codes on screen? Will 9XM plan something on similar lines?

Displaying ringtone codes on screen is a way of revenue generation for the channel. We might plan to do that in future but not now. We might also introduce more interactive features on our website.

9XM started by targeting the youth, where do you stand in this segment?

It is funny that we had targeted our music channel at the 15-24 age group, but have already invaded the General Entertainment space. In the C&S 4 yrs+ age group, MTV gets around 11-13 GRPs, while 9XM gets 44-45 GRPs. Today, when we complete one year of operations, TAM reveals that we are 300 per cent ahead of our closest contender, MTV.

With many channels revamping their image from being a music channel to a youth channel, do you plan to shift your image too?

Our channel completely banks on music and audiences of all age groups can come to our music channel to tune into good music and entertainment. And for fiction and reality shows, they can go to another channel.

Now that it has reached the number one spot, what is your strategy to maintain that position?

We shot to being the number one channel just in two weeks of inception and the industry predicted that with the format we were following, we would definitely close down within a month. So, we have proved them wrong by completing a successful anniversary. At 9XM, we believe in experimentation and are constantly looking forward to good music, innovative jokes, and more animated characters to remain at the top. Knowing that we are here to stay, we are having fun working as a team

Since the regional markets are picking up, would the group be coming up with regional versions of 9XM now?

After the launch of our music channel, general entertainment and news channel, INX media would be launching three regional, Punjabi, Bhojpuri and Bengali entertainment channels early next year. It might not necessarily have the same format as 9XM but would be a complete fun channel.