| 20 Mar 2018
Ferzad Palia: "We saw lot of changes in 2012"

Viacom18 Media Pvt Ltd English Entertainment SVP and GM Ferzad Palia:

2012 for Vh1 and the entertainment industry:

It’s been a very interesting and exciting year for us. We have seen lots of highs, some lows like ever year but this was specially one year where we saw a lot of changes happen including digitization. I assume this was the focus for all broadcasters in 2012. But from an entertainment point of view, the few things that we have seen are that international music has grown significantly. You can see that with the number of renowned international artistes coming down to perform and the increasing number of music festivals. Earlier we had around two festivals, while now we have around 14 international music festivals in a year. We have seen a growth of international music consumption even in the non-metros. So that’s been an extremely exciting indicator for us that depicts the growth in the space. It has been an extremely good year, on the advertising front there was pressure throughout the year which I feel is applicable to other players as well. But we lived through it and it’s not impacted us as badly as we thou
ght it would have at one point. When you have a genre like this which is growing, it takes care of the impact that the economy would have.

We have seen new players come up, so you know the category is growing and we are extremely happy about that. There are more channels now that are willing to play international music; I mean we have set the course from the last seven years. Thankfully, even radio channels are now playing international music. So while the segment is growing on radio and TV; even the live music scene and digital consumption is growing significantly. And the statement that international music is an urban or rich man’s prerogative is not necessarily true anymore.

Growth in advertising revenue and space:

Let me be honest. There is pressure all around. Every broadcaster and every media company has to work harder to get revenues, and it’s no different for us. We were in a market where the sentiment was slightly low; it was a tough year by and large across the globe and not just in India. People have been searching for positive signs. So when every company is under pressure, the effect is bound to flicker it down and advertising is always a discretionary expense for all marketers. You can’t reduce the amount of toothpaste or the size of the tube and you can’t reduce the quality. But what you can do is to cut back on discretionary expenses like advertising, which has happened with a lot of companies but at the same time I think the media has probably made the situation out to be a lot worse than it actually was. For every client that is cutting back on spends, there are multiple clients who are either launching or looking for customized solutions and increasing expense. And that is actually where our set of brands scored because when things get difficult everyone is looking for a far harder bank for their buck. Because we as a brand look to customize and integrate for our advertisers, they are very happy because we make everyone’s money work that much harder and on many aspects we even add to their sales or any other objective that they may have. I think that’s where we stood out and were able to tide over the year that was 2012.

Social media as an entertainment platform:

Social media is not competing. It is another avenue for people to communicate. It’s not replacing what you would term as conventional media. Infact in a lot of studies, we have seen something called social TV which was a very important trend of 2012. Here, there are multiple screens being engaged with at the same time. So while somebody is watching television, they are either writing their views on a particular program on social media, engaging with the show and content. So it’s all very complimentary. When consumers are watching an advertisement on television, they are happy to explore that product in detail through social media and ask for people’s reviews on the same. That is a big trend that has popped up and we are very excited about it as its all getting mixed with the understanding of the brand and the immediacy of the purchase has also gone up.

21st century youth and music:

I think the world has become a smaller place in the last few years and we are glad that it battled through the very initial years with international music being very niche. But today, thankfully it has grown and cut across audiences whether it’s geographical or the society that they belong to. I have seen the change personally. My own domestic help listens to Justin Bieber on her phone. And it’s not just once, it has happened many times. The irony of it is that when I asked her where she got that song from, she said she got it through Bluetooth from my driver. With technology progressing the way it has, everything has become so accessible and intelligent that this kind of content is spreading its wings because people do keep in mind that international music has and will always be aspirational. The quality of sound, video and more is extremely high. All of these are great indicators for the international music space in 2013.

Fragmentation of content bouquet:

The way we look at it is that everyone is not going to like everything and that is true for every content creator, marketer and more. We by virtue of being a leader in the international music and entertainment space, we have to cater to a wide section of people. We have to cater to a 15 year old listening to a lot of EDM and hip-hop tracks alongside a 45 year old who is happier listening to the kind of songs they heard when they were growing up like rock or jazz. So we are not only about what is new, we are also about what is best and obviously we bring things to the country first. But we do cater to a very wide section of society, so each of these complements the other. It’s not that you know the mature audience does not want to feel young. We cater to a young at heart audience. We are happy to educate and help the youth and also understand what was considered awesome at one point of time. So each of these initiatives which complemented this may be looked at as a fragmentation but they complement these segments.

New properties and response:

We launched a unique show Club Class in December with a much differentiated format. The thing is that we have always been looking to showcase how music has impacted various people’s lives, right from the common man to people who have made it big in the corporate world and other fields of life. So that was really the intention of how music would have shaped a few of the industry leaders and celebrity lives.

I think it’s important to know what other people like; it’s a human tendency to know what successful people like. So this takes care of the music part of it, as to how it would have influenced everyone from a politician to others. The people showcased are the ones looked upto by the youth generally. There would be a matured sector of audiences, which is why we are also airing it on CNBC because it also reaches out a lot to the corporate audience. It’s a win-win and that’s how we showcase what these people really like. There may also be bands which they talk about which the audiences have not heard of or may not be interested in, but because it’s a band or artiste that’s of interest to somebody else you will see people exploring.

We have been very encouraged with the initial results that have come up. We have received a lot of SMS, calls and more telling us that it is a great initiative. So in its first season the idea is definitely to take it a notch higher and make it a sort of frequent exercise by taking it to the next level. But it’s very early to predict any future plans because the show has just begun. We will definitely be scaling it up that’s for sure. It’s currently an eight-part series but once it extends we will definitely get in a lot more people. So I’m sure this will get extended. There are a lot of people from the industry who have come to us and told us that they would love to talk about it and everyone has exciting stories to share as it brings back fond memories for them, so that’s very encouraging for us.

Vh1’s best verticals in 2012:

The way we look at it is that, we have the best in award shows right from the Grammys to the Golden Globes, American Music Awards, Video Music Awards, Europe Music Awards and more. We have got every single award show on the channel. These live events are heavily discussed and we use a lot of our social media and other assets to build on these things. If you look at the conventional music videos, we have the largest library to cater to music fans. If you consider some of the clutter breaking shows also, we have some of the best shows which are ones that people don’t rush to download, but they actually discuss on Vh1. They have done this right from the time we aired ‘Pimp My Ride’ and ‘Yo Mamma’ a few years back, alongside ‘The Fabulous Life’. So now when we air shows like ‘The Buried Life’, ‘Shaq versus’ and more, there will always be a sprinkling of shows we believe the audiences here should be exposed to. We would also have a reality show like ‘Jersey Shore’ which is one of the biggest hits across the world. In addition to that we also have the best music concerts or albums; so we are not just a music video channel. We are as broad as it possibly gets in the international music world.

Content and consumption growth in tier II cities:

Actually the youth of tier II cities are picking up on the content that we have. With digitization and DTH growing, the situation has changed a lot because now the audience is exposed to what we are showing. Earlier, we weren’t available there and the kind of traction that the channel is getting outside of the main metros has beaten all expectations that any of us would have had. And we are very happy about that. So we are not planning to change our content because we have such a wide array of content and we see that as working. So it’s about getting more people to sample the channel and appreciate what the product has to offer really.

Partnerships with live shows and events:

Ever since the time we were born in this country, even before we were properly available on television we have been involved in the biggest fests like ‘Jazz Masters’ and ‘Hip-Hop Hustle’ amongst others. We also partnered to develop events and we certainly are going to be doing more for the live entertainment scene in addition to the content. If you consider all the events, large and small scale, indoor and outdoor then we have partnered with around 200 events last year alone. We just got done with large scale events like the GnR tour and Sunburn music festival. We have only grown forward this year and are working with relevant organizations to work on a larger monetary platform for international music channels.

Thrust areas for Vh1 in 2013:

We have around 1.6mn fans on the Vh1 facebook page which has made it the highest level engagement page. Apart from that, we also have 15,000 followers on twitter. Our facebook page for Comedy Central which is just around a year old has around 5000 fans on it. So we are doing well through the social media platform. In 2013, audiences can expect a lot more action from us as we focus on making the content available across multiple screens.