| 02 Dec 2022
Luke Kenny: "It's just a matter of time before 9XO becomes No 1 pure intl music channel"

In a fiercely competitive and cluttered environment where music channels are striving hard to rake in the moolah, 9X Media expanded its fleet and launched international music channel, 9XO. The sixth channel in the bouquet is planning to survive on unadulterated music experience of English and international hits from across the globe.

In a conversation with, 9XO head of programming Luke Kenny sheds light on the strategy behind coming with an international music channel, business model and its differentiated programming with which it hopes to steal a march over other well entrenched rivals.


9XO was launched in April, how has the progress been so far?

The progress has been great. We have been getting great responses from our audience and the market. Everybody is liking the freshness, uncluttered and uninterrupted music experience. It is extremely positive and very encouraging.

According to you what are the strengths and which are the grey areas that the channel needs to work upon?

I have been with the company for a year now but I knew 9X Media from the time when 9XM launched and the channel shot up in the ratings and viewership when all its immediate competitors like Channel V, MTV were struggling on what kind of music would get them high numbers. In such a scenario, 9XM came in as a 24*7 100 per cent bollywood music channel with no nonsense music programming and captured viewers.

At a time when everybody was chasing numbers, reality content, looking at exploiting human condition in its various ways here came a company which is now the largest music television network with six channels (9XM, 9XM UK, 9X Tashan, 9X Jhakaas, 9X Jalwa and 9X0). We at 9X0 are just looking at giving viewers pure experience of sitting back and listening to music that they really like regardless of their respective languages.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day we are a music vertical and the battle will always remain against the GECs of the world. But I think in time if we stick to our vision of being the music power house of the country across all languages and give the best music, we will become quite a formidable force.

What kind of programming content is there on the channel?

The format of the show is back to back music and there are no shows in the ‘traditional sense’. The core programming is Top 40 hits that features in the UK and US music charts. Within the Top 40, we represent hits from the international non-English phase, including French, German, Korean amongst others from across the world. We also feature new hot videos under the title ‘O-Vid’ and various genre led spot titles like love, metal, hip-hop and pop. The basic idea is to give an unbroken music experience across the board and not block out viewers by a genre specific slot. The content is refreshed daily, so that viewers get to watch something that they like, know and can remember.

So 9XO is committed to being back-to-back music channel and wont shift on getting youth based content in the future?

Absolutely. Today, the youth is getting a lot of reality and non-music content and they are saturated with it. In the initial stages of constructing 9XO  we had done a research on about 50-60 students from the three metros-Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi and fortunately we received a very positive feedback from them saying that finally there is a channel which wants to focus only on music and not on non-music content. At the end of the day there is a audience that is growing towards music and has had its fill of reality and non-music content. Youths today have formed their own bands but don’t have a platform so here is a promise from 9XO that it will showcase their talent on a national level.

How does the channel plan to support independent musicians?

We are in the process of creating a huge platform that will support the Indian independent music talent. Titled ‘OmeGrown’ the property will have five sub sections featuring new and upcoming bands, established bands, stalwarts from the industry and details on what is happening within the Indian independent music scene. It will have short format shows which will highlight each of these elements in their own purity and give a huge platform to the Indian indie music content which has not been supported on television format till date.

Explain in detail about the new property ‘OmeGrown’?

There are five sub sections of OmeGrown one being ‘O-Show’, where we take an established band and get them to perform at an unconventional space, eg: a band like Bombay Bassment will perform at Khar gymkhana. Our idea behind this kind of programming is to take an established band and put them in an unconventional space that is not necessarily in their comfort zone and open their music to an absolutely new audience. With this bands get a show, performance, music video and we as a channel get different visual content. This concept of OmeGrown will showcase very guerilla style videos featuring distinctive visuals of each band on a national level.

The next thing would be ‘Big Daddy-O’ that will showcase the journey of indie music stalwarts who have been around for past 15-20 years. We will do a brief profile on their past, present and immediate future. ‘IndieGenius’ is the third section where we will do similar career profiling of people who have been working within the independent music space but are not necessarily musicians.  We will feature people like Farhad Wadia who has been organizing India’s oldest rock fest I-Rock for 27 years and is promoting independent music, his journey, how he started and where he is today.

9XO has also partnered with ‘Live from the Console’, an on ground event at Mehboob studio for upcoming artists, singers, song writers, bands and DJs. With this association, 9XO has licensed the content and will televise and present it on-air under the OmeGrown umbrella.

And last but not the least, is a gig guide called ‘Deets’ that gives details of whatever is happening within the independent music scene, which DJ is playing at which club, which band is releasing an album, which band is recording an album, which band is on tour etc.

We are still working on our distribution and once it gets sorted the OmeGrown property will be launched tentatively by August.

What is the reach and target audience of the channel?

Well the core target audience is 18-21 year old, but of course under 18 are free to watch when their parents allow them to and over 21 are most welcome. Even though the youth of the country are rooted in their culture but their mindset is very international. They are always following the international trends, constantly tweeting and chatting about everything that is happening in the world outside. So the international influence is there, and we are trying our best to present the youth with international music in its purest form.

Which time slot is getting maximum viewership for the channel?

In fact there has been a constant fluctuation week on week on the maximum time spent on the channel. Sometimes during the morning hours, let’s say about 7 am to 12pm  gets maximum time spent and sometimes 5-7pm time band and mid night also goes up. This shows that there are different audiences watching at different times. So if you are always playing the music that they like, they will always be watching and will always be curious to see what’s coming up next.

Any comments on the TAM ratings as 9XO is really way far on the charts. How do you plan to climb up the ladder?

I think once we address our distribution issues a lot of the TAM data will get sorted itself and we will be able to give more clarity on the ratings.

Do you see Vh1 and Big CBS Spark as tough competitors? If Yes , then Why?

I can answer this question in a yes as well in a no. Vh1 and Spark play a lot of non-music content so in that respect they are not a 100 per cent music channel and hence there is no comparison. Vh1 is a youth lifestyle channel wherein 9XO is a pure music channel. But if the audience wants to watch reality shows then they will go to these two channels so yes then there is a competition. We have to try our best to keep audiences to watch music all the time and not have them go to non -music content. We are trying to capture the international space which is always sidelined and handicapped by bollywood in India.

Does the channel have tie-ups with music labels nationally and internationally?

We have our alliances with labels like Universal, Sony, EMI and Warner. At the end of the day they are content providers and have a lot of international contacts as well with offices worldwide.

What is revenue/business model adopted by the channel?

Advertisers off course, but we are looking to involve clients and brands in a way that it benefits them also. They should come in because they love what we are proposing to them not as opposed to just filling up the inventory. We are looking to engage brands in a way that they are benefitted from the channel and it’s not just a FCT led channel. In this way the channel will not have too many commercial breaks and at the same time we will get in brands that value what we are giving them, leading to a win-win situation for all.

How are you getting advertisers on board?

We have just launched two months back and fortunately the advertising fraternity has shown a lot of interest in the company. I feel our properties and programming have structured well and there is a space that will be capitalized and monetized to our benefit. The clients have their own positioning that they want to capitalize on and very often they don’t get the right kind of backdrop, but I think international music is becoming popular with the youth of this country. I think it’s absolutely a win-win situation for both.

Any plans of getting international artistes to the country?

Maybe few international DJs could come down as we have a property called BYOB, (Bringing You Our Beats), which is a dance block that happens on Saturday nights from 11 pm to 2 am. It’s our way of creating a house party when clubs shut down at 11pm. The show features uninterrupted English mix of dance music.

How are you exploiting the channel on digital platforms like FB, YouTube?

Yes, we have a YouTube channel, a facebook page and our own website which is interlinked with each platform and gives constant updates of what’s happening on the channel and the various activities that are happening as well.

The channel is available through which platforms? (Reach, MSOs- Hathway, Incable, Den, DTH- Dish TV, Tata Sky, Airtel Digital TV players)

We are on all the digital platforms except for the DTH. We should be soon on Airtel and Tata Sky, while Dish and Videocon will be the second level of reach.

Inspite of us not having the big DTH guys our GRP is about 2 to 2.5 on a weekly basis and its only because of our reach. I believe it’s just a matter of time and once our reach develops, our GRPs will also grow up. We are getting a lot of viewership, our average time spend on the channel is far better than the ‘so-called’ music channels.

What is the novelty factor that sets 9XO apart from the herd?

Well the fact that there is no other channel that plays international music 24*7 and international non-English hits as part of the programming structure sets us apart from the herd. It is also a fact that there is no other channel that has taken upon itself to support, promote and completely encourage independent music scene in the country.

Do you think 9XO will be able to maintain the market position as compared to other channels in the bouquets of 9X media?

From the simple fact that nobody else is doing what we are doing is a proclamation enough of where we stand as a brand and the fact that all the other regional brands are also standing very strong and growing fast. It’s just a matter of time before we become the number one pure international music channel because there is nobody else doing it.

In the reign where bollywood music is all the way, is international music going to work in India?

Well almost about 70 per cent of bollywood music today is international music. It’s just that their language is in Hindi.

Well 80 per cent of the country consumes Hindi films, so it’s not about going up against the Bollywood industry or say stop listening to Hindi music and watch only international music. It about giving an alternative to our audience, that when they get saturated, when they do not want to listen to Bollywood anymore they have a place to come to and not have to be worried about watching non-music content.

Lastly where do you see the future of 9XO five years down the line?

I will end with a comment which John Lenin once made when he was asked where you see the future of Beatles, he said to the “toppermost of the poppermost”.