Television

'We are adequately funded by New Silk Route' : 9X Media business head- new business Punit Pandey

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9X Media has seen its share of ups and downs. Launched in 2007 as INX Media by Peter and Indrani Mukerjea, the company started with a Hindi general entertainment channel 9X, a music channel 9XM and later an English news channel NewsX.

Then came the economic slowdown and coupled with problems at management level and fund crisis, the Indian promoters exited after selling off the English news channel.

The new management had a huge task: to reduce debt and turnaround. INX Media sold off 9X to Zee and started focussing on its only success - 9XM.

Today, with a new name, 9X Media, the company has four channels under its ambit. It has also relaunched in the UK.

Indiantelevision.com’s Gaurav Laghate caught up with 9X Media‘s business head- new business Punit Pandey to talk about the turnaround of the company and how it plans to grow further.

Excerpts:

INX Media was into losses and your Indian promoters exited. Why did New Silk Route agree to fund the music channels while the Hindi GEC 9X was sold to Zee?

The Hindi GEC did not work and we decided to concentrate all our energies, time and investments on 9XM as it was doing very well right from its day of launch. The turnaround story was around 9XM. NSR as a private equity partner, along with others, assured faith in not only the product but also in the management team.

Fortunately for us and 9XM, they continued to show faith in us. And obviously, we are backed by a strong product and a strong revenue stream as a business model.

NSR continues to partner and fund us and we have delivered on what we were supposed to. Today, we are a zero debt company and adequately funded.

With their funding support, we have launched three more channels over the last seven months. We launched Punjabi music channel Tashan in August, first Marathi music channel Jhakaas in October and recently Jalwaa. We have also relaunched 9XM in UK.

Weren‘t you planning to first launch the Bengali music channel in the regional space. Why didn‘t it happen?

While you are at a business plan state, you obviously think of so many things. But if you look at it, we have managed to consolidate 9XM, which is our flagship brand. Then we have also launched three more channels and UK feed.

And what about the performance of these channels?

Well, the Punjabi channel has replicated 9XM‘s success across the PHCHP (Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh) region and has achieved leadership status in the first week of its launch. So, it has become our second winning product.

Jhakaas and 9XM UK also have been received well. And though Jalwaa was launched just last week, we are getting tremendous response not just from trade but also from consumers that it is looking well.

So we have five operating products.

But Marathi channel has not picked up yet?

Jhakaas is not only Maharashtra‘s but India‘s first Marathi music channel. Since it is the only music player, it has been received well. But if your benchmark is going to be what Tashan has achieved in Punjabi, it is never going to be there.

Maharashtra, as a region, is 800 GRP market, and bulk of it is from general entertainment - Marathi as well as Hindi. It is followed by movies and news. And if you see, we have not launched just a channel, but a genre. There was no Marathi music channel before Jhakaas.

Being the first music channel, viewers have to get used to watching a music channel. Considering that, it is doing well as per our expectations. We are interacting with people, and they are liking it. To my view, it has opened well. There is scope to grow.

"West Bengal is a big market. So is Bhojpuri. But that doesn’t mean that we will launch everywhere. Let’s see, you will hear from us once we are ready to launch"

Talking about the business model, all your channels are FTA and only advertising lead. No plans for other revenue streams?

India currently is an ad-led business model and this applies to our channels as well. A large part of our revenue is from advertising, but we have also ventured into selling our merchandise through ecommerce.

We have to build the category. So, we have started merchandising and we have a very strong online presence.

You have been very bullish on the digital front and all your channels have live streaming. Why?

Currently, all our offerings and channels are in music space and large part of music consumption also happens on the online platform. So it is important that as a product we are present across all platforms, not just television but online and mobile also.

The idea is to reach out to your consumers, whoever they are and wherever they are and online cuts across that bet.

Online is a very important medium for us and is very visible. We are on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, everywhere.

But can it be monetised?

As I said, we have already started ecommerce website; this is our first initiative. And as we move on, we will have revenue lines attached to it also.

But yes, our business is driven by, and will continue to be driven by advertising.

How will you differentiate between the business models of all the channels?

Well, all our channels have a business plan and we ensure that we continuously monitor and follow it. That‘s how you see more new products.

Each new product brings in a lot of confidence as to how the product is delivering from the content and business perspective. And that is how you move ahead.

Which all regional markets you think have potential for another regional music channel? And when is the Bengali channel coming?

Responding to important markets, we saw that Punjab is a good market and we got into that. Marathi is also a good market. We saw that there is a clear need gap for 25+ audiences, so we launched Jalwaa.

Obviously, West Bengal is a big market. So is Bhojpuri. But that doesn‘t mean that we will launch everywhere. Let‘s see, you will hear from us once we are ready to launch.

And what about English? 

English is also an interesting space. I am not saying we are launching, but it should interest a music broadcaster.

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