RadioandMusic
| 08 Dec 2021
Media Worldwide director Prashant Chothani - 9XM has copied what we did, but they are not experimenting like we do

In a scenario choc a bloc with music channels trying to outdo each other with innovative programming, Music India believes in sticking to the conventional format of no VJs and back to back music. Parent company Media Worldwide's Prashant Chothani shares his views on the contemporary music channels, the distribution issues and the innovations planned for the year ahead in a conversation with Radioandmusic.com's Anita Iyer.

Excerpts:

What is the status of music channels in India today?

Before consuming any kind of music, it is the music channel which introduces the general audiences to the song. Mass media bombardment of music in the satellite space and availability of music on the digital space is driven by mass consumption of music on your minds by music channels. Television viewing patterns generally start with a music channel and end with a music channel.

With so many media bombarding the average viewer and other mediums like internet, mobile phone, I pods increasing in their popularity, how can music channels cope?

As I said earlier, the digital space consumption is driven by television music channels and in no way is this popularity going to affect us. You take a call to use a song in your cell or internet only after it is played on the television. The mechanism of the consumption available, like the size of the screen plus music is just a byproduct of the whole of different mediums like phones or internet.

Also with these mobile gadgets, there is a novelty factor attached to it but television channels occupy an important place. Television viewing is never going to change and as far as music channels are concerned the consumption is just going to increase. We are a Bollywood driven industry in India but abroad it is non-music driven, so even that contributes to television viewing.


Is a music channel a profitable business today?

Music channels are suffering because of the way they are positioned and the way they are sold. Earlier, it was presumed that putting up music channels is the easiest way to get into the broadcast business. However, it is difficult because of carriage costs, distribution content costs which keep increasing creating barriers and now only specialised people get into the music channel business. Television as a medium is under sold if compared to print because the television industry has set a lower benchmark for itself by the earlier players. This benchmark is a hindrance for all the new players as the operational cost or the survival cost is going up. Also, every ladder you climb is at a cost of crores of rupees but fortunately, things are getting better now.

Does distribution still pose a problem for music channels?

The problem of distribution persists as there are many channels and there is not enough space available on cable networks. Distribution is a problem for every broadcaster as the cost of distribution is going up by three to four times every year which is not acceptable. The scene seems to be powered due to the availability of DTH space with players like Airtel, Reliance planning to venture into it. But the problem of distribution must ease out in some years.


With general entertainment channels coming up with music based reality shows, do you think music channels are suffering?

The most important thing is that it is basically a GEC and music is just an added flavour for them. In all these reality shows, they are only playing the hit songs or the popular numbers gone by. We are the ones who popularise these songs and play the upcoming music on our channel. These GECs are inserting too many music shows now and this overdose has destroyed the original format.


How do you take a call to play certain songs? How has that consumption of music changed over the years?

When it comes to playing music, we have no forehand vision that it would be a flop or click with the audiences. Listening to the song, we take a call whether it would be a hit or not and then we push it depending on the audience reaction. There are some songs which do not make it to the top in the beginning but they slowly escalate the charts like A.R. Rahman's Guru.

Consumption of music and shelf life of music keeps changing and that is the key driver for most television music channels. Today, more and more new music is available and the factor of loyalty towards key music directors or singers ceases to exist. The tastes of the audiences are changing constantly with no brand loyalty, so engagement of consumers is going to be difficult in coming times. With new upcoming music, it has opened up new avenues but shelf life of the music has become shorter.

How far has the planned collaboration with Sahara reached?

It has been more than a year now and we would finalise things soon. It is important to see how we as an enterprise are able to add value to an already functioning enterprise. We have put across three music channels on our own strength- Music India, music India in UK and Sangeet Bangla so this deal will add on to our value.

The new music channel 9XM is doing well but the format of the channel seems more or less like Music India?

9XM has copied what we did; they have followed the same formula with no veejays, back to back music and are today number one. What Music India did, worked with a smaller set up and 9XM has pumped in more money to try different models with the same formula and today they top the music channels. But they are only playing hit songs and not experimenting or taking a call on the new songs in the market like we do.

What about your regional ventures? You had planned Marathi and Bhojpuri channels too…

Bhojpuri market is a booming industry and there is lot of potential in the near future. I guess this might be the first Bhojpuri music channel as no one has made any conscious effort for Bhojpuri music before. It is a bit difficult for us when it comes to establishing something new and the followers just suck the existing ones in their business. Some government formalities are to be completed and then we would be going on air. As far as the Marathi music channel is concerned, it would take time as the Bhojpuri channel is our first preference.

You are among the few music channels who play non film music apart from Bollywood?

We believe that non film music has great potential to explode if given a proper platform and we provide them with an outlet. Consumption of music is growing and this consumption opens up new opportunities for the non film artist. I believe that three to four years down the line, we would have a strong non-film patronage like Bollywood.

Tell us something about your UK venture?

Music India in the UK is a way for Indians abroad to stay in touch with India. The content and format is different from the content of music India here. For the UK, we have a separate feed running from London and the music served is of the golden era of the 1970s to 2000. As far as success of our UK venture is concerned, it is too early to comment on it.

Do you tie up with new Bollywood movies for promoting their ventures?

Every new Bollywood film comes to us and we would not make any changes in our format to promote any Bollywood venture. We have a one to 'many relationship', where the Bollywood movies use our platform to popularise their song and we rely on their content. We support the upcoming movies and ensure that people consume this music. We give equal weightage to every film and if the song fails to click, we hammer it a bit more to place it among the audience. In case of tie-ups you have an obligation to push a particular movie a bit more. Music channels promote the upcoming song and also the digital sales by flashing the ringtone codes on the screen.

How much per cent does ringtone contribute to the revenue of total revenue of your channel?

Ringtone business contributes to the revenue of the music companies and channels have no stake in it. We promote the movies and ringtone codes are just part of the campaign. We are being paid to promote the movie and the film makers are promoting the digital content on our channel. The focus of outlet for serving of music has changed from physical to digital and so it is more important for music companies to hammer it more.

Where does music India stand in the market today?

Today, Music India is the number three music channel after MTV. Our position channel share and audience base has remained the same and unaffected by entry of new players. 9XM has created the top place for itself but that growth hasn't affected us.

Are the new music channels posing a threat to the existing ones?

A new channel climbing up the charts doesn't necessarily mean that the existing toppers are suffering. The top four are escalating but the other channels have suffered at least by 50 per cent. The gap between the top four and bottom four is increasing and this has to be looked into.

Now that Sangeet Bangla is No.3 GEC, what innovations do you plan on that front?

We are planning to launch 14 new shows on Sangeet Bangla now and moving towards becoming a General Entertainment Channel and not sticking to music. But whatever changes we make, we would like to stick to our core ingredient, the music and many fun-filled shows are lined up.

What innovations does Media worldwide plan now?

Media World wide is a small broadcast company with few channels! Well, as our content is mainly Bollywood driven, changing Bollywood will change Music India. We will stick to our format of back to back music and won't have VJs. The positioning of our channel is unique and we don't want to divert from music and venture in non-musical content. Music India is well distributed and is number three so we might come with different strategy and a different product with itself in the near future.

Does that mean you would venture in other genres now after music?

We might come up with some niche segments and divert from music channel. May be we would come up with a General Entertainment channel but it is too early now to divulge anything about it now.