RadioandMusic
| 29 Jun 2022
Vh1 turns 10: A Retrospective View by Ferzad Palia

MUMBAI: From being the only international music centric channel in India to being a reputed brand for everything synonymous to music, Vh1 India has come a long way since its inception in 2005. The channel completes a decade this month and for the same, has special nostalgia-inducing retrospective programming. On 12 January (right after airing the 72nd Golden Globe Awards Live on Vh1), the channel head Ferzad Palia spoke about the journey of Vh1.

In an earlier statement, Palia said, “This is a significant landmark for all of us as a team, as an organisation and as individuals. Our first English child, Vh1 India has turned 10 years old. Ten glorious years is how I would like to remember them. 1 January, 2005 was when it all began, with humble beginnings. From just a 40 music video channel in 3 cities to being the number one English entertainment channel across India, we have come to become a household name. From doing indoor gigs to now having 15,000 fans sing 'Happy Birthday Vh1' on the sands of Goa during Vh1 Supersonic 2014, it has been an exciting and fulfilling journey. I genuinely want to thank each and every one who has participated in this fantastic journey, directly or just as a well-wisher. It is indeed, a very proud moment for team Vh1."

Initial Challenges

Palia said that Vh1 started with just five members working on everything, from programming to marketing to distribution after the network had demanded them to launch the channel in less than a fortnight. Palia, called himself a 'fossil' for having spent a decade with the channel. He said, "It has been a difficult ride. We had to launch the channel in January and we had nothing ready. There were five of us and we had to handle everything. We drove across Bombay and Delhi to make sure that the hoardings went up at midnight. We stayed the course and did not sell out."

The first five years of the channel had been the most difficult. "It was a tough task to build a category. However, in time, the seeds of investment that were sown started to bear fruit," he said. Vh1 launched with just 40 music videos that they kept rotating, because "for the first ten months, we wanted to get the basics right," added Palia. The times were so evidently trying that most of the IRD boxes of the channel, that should ideally have been with the cable operators, were with Palia and his colleagues in their office.

Expansion of the channel

Palia said that they wanted to set base at major networks like Delhi and Bangalore first. "One day, we went to Barista in Bangalore (the same place which is now Hard Rock Cafe) and asked if they knew about this new channel called Vh1. They said that they had not. So, we asked them for the remote and while surfing, we found out that they did have the channel, but it was at 94/95," said Palia. And since the channel was blurred, Palia and his colleagues were the only ones who recognised it. To make the ‘Vh1’ brand more popular, the channel started to have more live events. “In our first year, within a fortnight of the launch, we got Vh1 Jazz Masters, which happened on 16-17 January and the second live event that Vh1 did was ‘Hip Hop Hustle’,” said Palia. Nokia Hip Hop Hustle was in fact a live event before it became a popular music block on the channel.

Programming

In order to get a lot of things right, the team decided to launch music blocks based on different genres of music. Vh1 started with ‘Hip Hop Hustle’ and ‘Rock Rules’, which were the music blocks that really took off. Vh1 then started to introduce mature content during the weekends with ‘Vh1 Classics’. Then, for ‘Cardio Videos’, the Vh1 team went out to create awareness. “We knew that we did not have a 50 crore budget to popularise ourselves, so went to gyms, salons and coffee shops and made sure that every television set played Vh1. Thankfully, it did not need to be forced, because consumers were automatically going to Vh1 after sampling it,” added Palia. He further said that Vh1 even tied up with radio stations to start an international music hour. Vh1 started with music videos and then moved on to reality programming like ‘Pimp My Ride’, which got so popular that Vh1 got mails asking them to make an Indian version of the show.

Along with long format shows like ‘Pimp My Ride’, Vh1 has also bagged the broadcast rights for all major music awards including Grammy Awards, BRIT Awards, American Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, European Music Awards and even the Golden Globe Awards. For those doubting the channel’s acquisition of the latter, Palia said that Vh1 regards itself as an English GEC.

Anniversary special programming

For its tenth anniversary, Vh1 has started airing ‘Vh1’s Top 100 Videos of the Decade’ and ‘Vh1’s Most Played Videos of All Time’. And starting 18 January, Vh1 will air ‘Vh1 Music Diaries: Vh1 Turns 10 Special’ with Rohit Pereira aka P-Man taking viewers down memory lane. Also, classic Vh1 shows like ‘My Super Sweet 16’, ‘Pimp My Ride’, ‘Cribs’, ‘Mike Judge’s Beavis & Butt-Head’ and ‘The Buried Life’ will air as ‘Vh1 Throwblock’ on 26 January.