RadioandMusic
| 18 Nov 2019
Vh1 India Associate General Manager Ferzad Palia - A lot is going to change in the way we support Indian musicians with international dreams

Vh1, India's only international music and lifestyle channel is known to bring down international shows and artists to India regularly. With new shows like Jazz Masters, Big Brother, Saturday Night Live, Global music Express and Yo Momma, Vh1 is scaling new heights with its programming and foray into the live music scenario.

Vh1 India Associate General Manager Ferzad Palia speaks on programming, scale-ups, and future plans of VH1 with
Radioandmusic.com's Chirag Sutar -  Read on.

What is the idea behind Global Music Express?

The idea behind Global Music Express is to get new overseas artistes who we think are popular in the west but need exposure
in India. For the coming schedule, we have got the US based band Gold Spot coming around the third week of February. Gold
Spot is a fairly well known band having an Indian vocalist. We'll be taking the band on a four city tour. As of now, we are
playing their videos on air to create awareness.

There is a good chunk of talent out there who don't come to India because it's not a priority in the international music
market. We thought why not take the lead and bring down the artistes and give the country something to see of that what is
happening across the world.

Who shortlists the artistes?

We have an in house team and of course we have our expertise of the international market. Our team shortlists the artistes and makes sure that everything is happening.

How has been the response to GMX been so far?

The response has been fantastic. It shows that people do want to experience new music. Even though most of the gigs were on
weekdays, the venues have gone houseful. I think it's necessary that we expose listeners to new music or else we'll just be a
retro country.

Who are the target audience for GMX?

We are not looking at any particular target audience. Whether it's young or old is not of prime relevance. The objective of
GMX is to bring to India good upcoming talent. Today, most of the acts that come down to India are big names, but we aim at
bringing names which are known in the west but need exposure back here.

With this, are you expanding into the live music scenario?

We are deep in live music scenario. We launched with the property Jazz masters where we bring out the biggest names like
Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, renowned jazz singer Al Jarreau, and saxophonist Kenny Garrett to name a few  In other genres we don't bring out the big names. In 2005, we got Flip-side for Vh1 hip-hop hustle. When we got them, they where nobody, they had only sold about 900 CD's and by the time they where done touring with us, they became so popular they managed sell around 11,000 CDs.

What do you offer to the artistes as far as the 360 degree deals go?

There isn't any other music and lifestyle channel of international repute in the country – the first choice for artistes is
Vh1 because they look for familiarity. We make sure that the marketing that we do is massive by offering them a genuine 360
deals which includes airing their videos. And of course, most of the musicians want to come to India because they have heard
so much about it. It's for us to popularize the artiste.

But live music scene has hit low.

Live music scenario is down because of the economic sentiments prevailing across the world. In India, the model that
promoters largely work is the sponsorship based model  So, if we don't recover money from sponsors, it's unlikely that
you'll even break even on an event. And, the worst is about ticket sales and very less about sponsors – I think we haven't
reached that level yet. That is also one of the reasons why you haven't seen a big name in a long-long time.

How are you supporting Indian musicians?

A lot is going to change in the way we support Indian musicians with international dreams. You'll see a platform where
you see Indian artistes with international artiste. Well, if we feel that the talent that we see in India can make it to the
international stage then would certainly encourage them. After all, it's our responsibility at the end of it to groom the
Indian artistes.

How have  the TRPs for Big Brother been so far?

Channels like ours are never looked at from a rating perspective because it just doesn't make sense. We have a massive
marketing campaign around it (Big Brother) and the media too has picked up well by giving updates on the show.

It seems that you have changed your programming and are focusing more on reality and lifestlye.

Since we are music and 'lifestyle' channel, we have always had stuff which was non-music. It's just that in the last quarter,
we have had two popular shows – Saturday Night Live and Big Brother and perhaps that is the reason for this speculation. But, we haven't changed the amount of music that we play or the time devoted to it.

MTV went Hindi, most channels are going regional to get more eyeballs. Will VH1 do something similar?

MTV and VH1 are the part of the same network, so there is no reason for us to move into anything that is not our core. We
will not dilute or deviate from where we are in terms of going Hindi or regional – there are plethora of a channels devoted
to masses. Ours is a growing segment. There is dearth of international lifestyle content on television. The reason VH1 was launched because MTV went mass. There is a whole set of audience who grew up on international music, but there's no avenue for them. We'll endeavor that they stay on and fulfill whatever that they want from us.

Can shows like 'Yo Momma' be successfully replicated in India?

Well, the literal translation of Yo-Momma is 'Teri Maa Ki' – it's about trash talking. It's something which youngsters do at
petrol pumps in US or at the colleges. The kind of fraction that is drawn with our audience is amazing and the local 'Yo
Momma' jokes that are being made is making it extremely encouraging to say the least for the show. We are glad to bring it to
India. I am not sure if a format like it would work considering the Indian sensibilities. I won't like the channel to go on that route.

Tell me about your current advertiser profile.

We have a wide range of advertisers from mobile phones, perfumes, diamonds, deodorants, and soaps to chewing gums. We are talking to different audience at different time of the day – younger audience during day time and the older audience during the night. One is likely to see more premium variants on our channel.

Are ad revenues growing?

Yes, ad revenues are growing. We have seen robust growth right from the day we launched. The advertisers quickly understand about the audience that we deliver. The number of audience maybe small compared to the other channel because we have premium audience. We deliver to cross section of youth and older generations who grew up on international music.

Where is VH1 more popular in India? Is it Bangalore?

Bangalore seems like the most obvious answer. The amount of English loving audience who want to experiment with different
music is more in Bangalore. They don't watch channels meant for masses  But what is surprising is that we are No.1 channel
in Delhi  This comes as a massive surprise given the baggage that Delhi carries of being a Hindi speaking majority. Delhi is
reacting very well to us and this has grown in the last two years. Mumbai and Hyderabad are doing well, Calcutta is great with rock music, Pune has a huge college market. So, each market is different in its own way, its probably got its different preferences.

How are you dealing with recession?

We are being judicious on our costs obviously to maintain our profitable bottom line … off course there is pressure,  but we
are not seeing too much of a downside on the revenues. Even in the face of recession, irrespective of how the year fans out,
we are looking forward towards the next couple months which involve lot of investment. It's safe to say that we are going
against the trend of people who are lessening the numbers of shows. However, we'll increase cost of content and marketing the investment will be large.

What are VH1's future plans?

When most organizations are cutting their cost, we are looking for revamps and scale-ups. We'll scale up each genre of music
and have in-depth information on artistes. We think the first stage has been complete. And now you will see a lot more fresh
content. Be it in the lifestyle space, long form space or the entire music catalogue. There will be lot more viewer interaction – we are focusing on interactivity. We'll also be scaling up the lifestyle and the comedy angle.

We are moving heavily into the digital space – streaming, downloads etc because now that becomes the new revenue stream. We would be making content available for downloads and we are working on that with mobile operators – we are working on some breakthrough concepts.

What are your observations on lifestyle channels in the country?

There is space for every channel and that's good for the viewer. Of course, we are all fighting for the same advertising pie,
but from the international lifestyle point of view, there isn't much competition. Moreover, there is serious dearth of
channels playing content for this kind of an audience.