'No advertiser or competitor can ignore the disruption we have created in the marketplace' : Channel [V] EVP and GM Prem Kamath

For Channel [V], the radical moment has arrived. The reinvention process it started in 2009 as music channelsfailed to create differentiated content and had to settle for low revenues. Making the shift, the Star group channel has decided to discontinue all the music slots in its programming lineup effective 1 July.

The new avatar will do away with Bollywood music as it searches for youth audiences that are monetisable. The positioning that it will take is a complete youth entertainment channel with 100 per cent content customised for this target segment. 

In an interview with Gaurav Laghate, Channel [V] EVP GM Prem Kamath talks about the channel?s growth plans.


Doing away with music is definitely a bold step. But what about the trailers that channel [V] airs?

Trailers will continue as they are a source of revenue. We sell them as any other spot for promotions. But we won?t be airing any Bollywood music as part of our programming lineup.

So from where did this idea come from? Do you see a lacuna in youth-targeted programming?

The ?Youth channel? word has become a misnomer in the Indian context with music channels calling themselves as youth channels. Unless you are creating youth content, you cannot be a youth channel.

Music is as youth as a movie channel or a news channel or a sports channel is for that matter because if you see demographically with over 60 per cent of youth population, all the channels have youth as their main TG.

So how is Channel [V] differentiated?

We are very clear that we don?t want to be a commodity channel playing just music. If you see, all the music channels are in the same GRP (gross rating point) bracket and the content is identical.

On the other hand, we offer 100 per cent customised youth content. And all our shows have worked really well and today ratings wise, we are two-and-a-half times of these channels.

As you said, all channels have majority of their audience as youth. Why will an advertiser select Channel [V]?

We are delivering to a youth audience, which is exclusive and substantial in number. This has made Channel [V] a vehicle through which the advertisers can target the said audience.

?There is a risk in adding original content and not having anything to fall back on (like music) in case the shows don?t work?

So when did you finalise on shedding the Bollywood music completely?

When we relaunched in June 2009, the plan was ready then. We were focussed on increasing the original content.

In 2009, we had 75 per cent music content while 25 per cent was original content. And we gradually and consciously reversed that order. Since the last six months, we have been airing only three hours of music in a day.

But don?t you think creating original content will increase the operational cost?

Substantially, but we were clear that youth centric shows per hour cost a lot more than the usual music that runs on these kind of channels. We, therefore, built slot by slot.

Today, we have 10 hours of original content per week. We have three successful fiction shows and will add on to have weekday primetime from 6-8.30 pm. And on Saturdays and Sundays, we will be airing a one-hour show at the 7 pm slot.

Isn?t one of your shows picked up by Star Plus?

Yes, Gumraah, our weekly show, which we are changing to a daily. It is being aired on Star Plus at 8 pm as a repeat on Saturdays and Sundays. This also shows the strength of our content.

Once you stop music, how will you fill up the slots?

We will air all our shows three times a day. It suits our viewers also as India is predominantly a single TV householdand parents are in charge of the remote. So our TG can catch up on the show during the repeats. Also, colleges here operate in morning and afternoon shifts, so having three repeats will help in that case.

If you see all the music channels, the main TRPs come from the morning band where you also were playing music. Don?t you think that removing music will affect badly on the ratings?

Our channel is viewed by over 25 million people and we average over 50 GRPs week on week, which is a proof that our viewers are watching shows and not music.

Moreover, as you pointed out, most of the GRPs on the music channels come from morning bands, which is ad free. So even if it helps in getting the ratings, it may not necessarily be monetisable.

But these are safe GRPs?

I agree that there is a risk in adding original content and not having anything to fall back on (like music) in case the shows don?t work. However, we are extremely confident about our content.

Our break TVR is four times that of other channels. This goes to show the strength of our content - that is sticky and engaging. In case of music, people tend to change the channel the moment ad begins. Even our show to break conversion is as high as 80 per cent.

But still when you say Channel [V] or MTV, the first image that comes to mind is that of a music channel. The legacy factor is there. Won?t that get affected?

Numbers are absolute truth and perception is not. And we have numbers to substantiate.

How do you see current competition coming from music and youth channels?

The disruption that we have created is so wide that it can?t be ignored by the advertisers or competitors. The current problem with music channels is that no advertiser is going to pay a premium, unless you have a differentiated offering.

Having said that, top players will be profitable, albeit small. There will be a time when some of these players will have to relook on their business models.

Earlier you had said that monetising the music content is difficult. How?

Exactly. Today the same music is available on not just the music channels but also on multiple platforms like internet, mobiles and tablets. And consumption of music videos is very high on high-end mobiles and tablets.

Anything that can get monetised on a television channel is loyalty. And that can?t happen with the same content. That is why we decided to offer customised youth content.

Everyone is bullish on digital today. What future role Channel [V] will have on the digital front?

Everyone is trying to figure out the answer to this question. How and up to what extent digital entertainment will affect TV is yet to be seen. Having said that, if you understand your audience well and create content for them, it will work.

Moreover, digital as a medium changes very fast, which adds further complexities. There are some myths,though, that are busting - like on internet only short form content works. Today, YouTube plays full length feature films and long format is also working well.

Talking about our website, for now it will be an extension of the channel adding ancillary programming for TV.

Unlike some of your competitors, you are not much into licensing and merchandising. Why?

L&M for us is not making bags or T-shirts. It is not a marketing stunt and our belief is that L&M should be strongly differentiated and have big potential. So we have two properties ? [V] Spots and IndiaFest.

We have seen phenomenal success with [V] Spots. Both Saket (New Delhi) and Gurgaon outlets have broken even within a month of launch. We will soon be launching in Pune and by the end of our next fiscal (June 2013), we will have 10 [V] Spots across India. We are looking at Chandigarh and Bengaluru as potential markets.

IndiaFest is one of its kind youth festival, which we organise in Goa every year. It is also growing year-on-year.

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