| 19 Jul 2024
We have to find ways in which we can differentiate ourselves: 9XO channel head Clyde D'souza

International music brands had been ruling the English music channel space in India until 9XO emerged five years ago. Today it authoritatively announces itself as an English music influencer and it’s leaving no stone unturned under the guidance of channel head Clyde D'souza.

The former MTV associate director joined 9XO during its inception, and this makes his association with the channel even stronger. He does all that it takes to stay updated, to keep the channel well-run, and stay close to the audience. This is also one of the reasons for the innovative ideas that the channel has churned in these years.

In an exclusive interview with Radioandmusic, D'souza shares 9XO’s journey, innovations, constant race to match up and times when they managed to overtake the digital world and more. Excerpts.

In these five years, 9XO hasn’t deviated from its core purpose, being a pure play music channel.

We started with a simple focus to help people discover music. So, we decluttered 9XO from all the other channels that play reality and lifestyle. We don’t do any of that. We stick to top 40 English songs. When a viewer comes to 9XO he gets 15 songs in an hour posed to another channel that might give 7-8 songs per hour. The other channels also have lot more breaks. We have lesser breaks.

9XO has constantly been innovative in building connect with its audience. Has it helped build the viewership?

We have been innovating for our young viewers. So, the first year we had Tweet Down. It was our Twitter-based countdown show, where we would put 20 songs on Twitter and ask them to tweet their favourite songs. We would then play those songs along with their tweets. The third year we launched Hook –an app that matches you with someone who likes the same songs. We call it match over music. They are connected via music and 9XO shows those hooks on the channel. This year we have launched Insta Top 10. It’s our new countdown via Instagram. You comment on the song you like and we will show that song on-air along with the Instagram profile.

A few years ago we had Snapstars.  Here we asked the viewers to take selfies using one of snapchat filters. Every week we would ask them to face swap with their favourite artist. Then we would put it on-air. Thos are the kind of innovations that we continuously keep doing at 9XO, which we think the viewers like and they keep coming back to us.

What’s next on the innovation front?

We’ve launched Obot. It’s a cute bot. It is our mascot that will help you with trivia of music, tell you what’s new in music. He is funny, he is quirky. We will also have a property, Obot Top 10.

How important is a mascot for a channel?

Basically, it brings the channel alive. There is a personality to the channel. Otherwise, it’s just packaging or look and feel because we don’t have any VJ. So you can look at a mascot as an animated VJ who brings out the personality of the channel. Currently, we are looking at Obot as something that we will develop forward.

A lot is also changing on 9XO in terms of its look.

With music channel, there is only so much that you can do because most of the music is available on YouTube. We have to find ways in which we can differentiate ourselves from other channels, as well as help the viewers. So, we want to position 9XO as the place where you want to come to view international music. We are the experts on international music and even if you watch us for 10 minutes we can bring that expertise to you. That’s our simple focus. Taking that forward we are launching something called the Social Screen.

So, while a song is playing we will have a design that will pop up the celebrities’ latest tweet or Instagram post. Someone who is sitting at home does not know what Selena Gomez's Twitter handle is and now, the information is there for them.

You will also get to see Instagram, Twitter posts and trivia feed called Novato. One will get information on artists even without searching for it.

Will the information be manually updated on the channel?

We have a technology that allows us to create that data; we don’t have to put it on an edit sheet. We have created an XML technology that allows us to put Instagram and Twitter handle’s of the celebrities. So, the posts get automatically picked up with that song. That’s the social screen that we are handling. When a viewer is seeing that in the real world, they feel more connected.

You seem to be giving some tough competition to the digital world with these idents.

Today we all see stuff on YouTube and you know that the video timeline is progressing. So, you know how many minutes of the video are left. So, while the video is playing on 9XO the viewers will now, get to see the timeline. We are also adding something called a badge.  Some songs become epic while some become classic. We have made different badges – dope moves, sick rhymes, we also have something called aww for love songs. We will give these badges to the songs. We have also added something called as Similar Artists. So, while the song plays you get to know about artists songs of the similar genre.

That’s a lot of innovation happening at 9XO.

A lot of people will not go searching for information. They want to do a lot of different things. We let them live their lives and when they are watching 9XO we would provide them with that information. They can definitely add it to their playlist. Overall this makes a rich layer on top of vanilla music and establishes a more expert guide.

You’ve been doing a lot of on ground event partnerships. Tell us a bit about it.

We do a lot of partnerships. We don’t create our IPs. We tie up with the ones that are existing because they are in the business of creating on ground properties. We are in the business of on-air properties. So we stick to our expertise and tie-up with them to promote their on-ground events. And in turn, they promote us on their on-ground events. It’s a very simple partnership that works well for everyone concerned.

Does 9XO believe in 360-degree marketing campaigns?

We invest zero amount in marketing. Our marketing guys do a great job by tying up with the biggest events in India be it Sunburn or EVC. We give more banks for their buck. There are also other channels but we give them more coverage.

How is the channel doing on the BARC charts?

We have been kicking a** as far as BARC is concerned. For the last eight weeks, we have been number one. Our competitors are an international brand. They have been in the space for 10 years now, we are five years younger company and we are still holding our own. We have created our channel from scratch, but we are doing well on social, GRPs and people love the channel. So, that’s a great story.