| 17 Apr 2024
Not just competition, focus is on opportunities as well: Manav Dhanda

MUMBAI: Reaching the top is the easy bit, staying there is the hard part.

In the music channels’ ecosystem, Mastiii has been there, and doing that- for almost two years. In fact, the channel has fallen from the summit only four times in 2016, but never for two weeks in a row. The channel’s intent and desire to return to the top spot projects Sri Adhikari Brothers’ (SAB Group) unparalleled knowledge of the Hindi music consumer despite the evolving digital age and the return of a few old brands in the space.

Speaking to’s Suhas Thobbi, Group CEO at SAB Group, Sri Adhikari Brothers Ltd., Manav Dhanda elaborated on the reasons how Mastiii has managed to raise the bar for itself and the competitors, the conscious decision to stay away from English content and SAB’s regional players.

It's been happening so often. Has Mastiii retaining the top position (BARC India Music) stopped being amusing or surprising to you now? Or do you still treat every week’s result with the same enthusiasm?

We enjoy the rankings. We have stayed on the same position for at least twelve months now, barring a few weeks. And whenever we lost the top spot, we have ensured to retain it at the next week. Any product (competitor) is in this business to be a market leader. In this case, we have been the leaders, the undisputed ones.

In the recent weeks, you have not only managed to retain the top spot but raised the gap with the nearest competitor. Have there been conscious efforts to ensure so, or is it the same old business with respect to programming?

A massive amount of effort is invested in learning the consumer behaviour, demands and preferences. Having said that, the consumer is never constant. The consumption changes by season. That explains why some channels run programs in full swing late winter, while some wait for another season. It majorly depends on the channel’s content strength. Apart from that, loyalties of the consumers change. All of these elements are scrutinised and the channel acts accordingly.

More or less, Mastiii is a youth-oriented channel. Have you seen a decline in viewership on the young demographic with the rise in streaming apps and other services that offer music at ease?

The recent BARC ratings suggest the channel’s impressions are only growing. We are not losing audience, in fact, we are gaining new ones. And I would like to add about the frequent discussions on disruptive elements, the success of newer players in the ecosystem does not necessarily mean the consumer cannot consume content from two sources. People who have signed up for streaming services also watch television. The same logic extends to music channels.

Mastiii’s impressions increase during weekends. Again, has there been a different approach to the content you serve on the weekends when compared to other days?

As I said, a lot of effort goes into understanding the consumer’s needs. The sampling for weekends is unique. The audience mix is entirely different on weekends than weekdays. Not only the music section, we have dominated across demographics, regions and slots. (Mastii’s weekend program – Mastiii Star Wars helped the channel witness 80 per cent GRP rise in viewership)

Through your experience about the music channel ecosystem, what have your observations been so far in terms of how the space continues to be ‘a small market’ (below 4 per cent of the entire pie) compared to other genres of entertainment?

If you would see, music is the only category where the content is duplicable. There are good 18-19 music channels that exist in the eco-system. In Mastii’s case, we are content creators. We serve music. The audience comes back to us, week in week out, for our content. What I have observed throughout these years is the fact that the largest share of ratings arrive from the morning prime shows. And every channel now tries to bank on it.

The second to fifth positioning in the BARC ratings have been topsy-turvy. On the other hand, Mastiii continues to grow. Can we relate this to any of the brand’s online and offline marketing efforts (if any)?

There has been no aggressive third party marketing effort invested through Mastiii. There has been no b-2-c marketing either. Mastiii lately, on its bad day, manages to gain 40 per cent more impressions than its nearest competitor. As they always say, content is the king. Rural or Urban, Mastiii has been the consistent leader throughout these spaces. (For example, an addition of two new programs by the channel – with no rocket science strategy behind the content – driven purely by basic unique ideas raised the GRP ratings in viewership by over 80 per cent).

SAB has not entered the English content space. Was it the decision from the very beginning or did you wait for other music channels to try the English content and then take an informed decision?

It was a conscious decision from the very beginning. English is an aspirational language, sure. But it’s also an unfamiliar language. If you take the example of GECs, the English channels started doing well after the addition of subtitles. Another difference is the dialect. In music’s case, it’s pretty simple, if the song is not sing-along worthy, then it won’t work. (History is the proof).

On the other hand, SAB’s regional channels continue to do well. For example, Maiboli. So, the regional clearly makes more sense than international or English content?

Maiboli (Marathi youth & music channel) is only eighteen months old. Several content providers existed in the space. We carved unique content not only for our Marathi audience, but the same approach extended to Gujarat and Bihar audience (through Dhamaal and Dabangg). And the same will continue for Se7en, the music channel focusing on the audience from the seven North eastern states, expected to launch early next year.

So how would you deal with a new market that already includes several ‘big name’ existing players?

Let me tell you, ‘big player’ advantage is really not an advantage. The audience cares about the content, not the logo or the name that provides it. Some players have failed to understand the consumer’s needs and that reflects on their weekly performances. Rankings are reflection of how good the channel understands the market. Urban, rural, North or east, we wish to continue to be the top leader. The focus is not just on the competition, the focus is also on the opportunity.

How did the channel react when it lost its beloved top position thrice this year?

Well, of course, we do not like the gap narrowing down. But we have a mechanism in place in order to ensure we get back to top. You know, when we sit down to analyse where we have gone wrong, we do not find a solution instantly. The first answers are never the right ones. We have reached an unreachable position, thanks to the efforts like these.