"We are comfortable being a stand-alone channel " : Alex Kuruvilla Managing director MTV India

Music channel MTV is all set to stir up some buzz on the Hindi film scene.Its first venture into the world of movie making, Bas Yun Hi, will see the channel partnering with Bandra West Productions. The film is being billed as a lighthearted romantic comedy. MTV India managing director Alex Kuruvilla spoke to Ashwin Pinto about the film and other issues.

When and how did the idea come about?

Bas Yun Hi is a true partnership in every sense of the term. The process started a couple of years ago when we started making efforts to modernise our brand equity. So we go into clothing through MTV Style, branding products through credit cards. Being involved with the process of filmmaking was a natural step since a major part of our programming is film based. When Raja Menon ( director and producer of BYH) and Pratap Raju (BYH co-producer) came to us with the idea we were attracted to it from the word go.

Through Bas Yun Hi we spotted a window of opportunity to create a new genre of film, which would mix reality and fantasy. The film will present everyday scenarios in an interesting fashion so that the end result is neither heavy handed nor trivial. We also needed to be sure that it would fit across the 25 million homes that the channel reaches. The fact that experienced hands were involved in production gave us further reassurance. We are in the process of building up a serious business out of the brand.

"Based on the audience reaction to ?The Osbournes? we might look at producing a ?desi? show along similar lines featuring a popular personality that the Indian audience can identify with"

Is the channel trying to emulate the success MTV has had in the US with films like Orange County?

Absolutely. However at the moment our core competence is limited as these are testing waters for us. We have always been involved with films in terms of contests, promotional teasers, behind the scenes features but the process always commenced when the product was ready. Here, we have got involved at the beginning before even the final script was ready. At each stage of production, we have been lending our creative inputs and guidance to all aspects of the film whether it was the music or the storyline.

What is the film?s target audience?

This is a film that will cut across the board. It will hold appeal not just to the teeny bop generation but to the entire family.

When will the promos and marketing strategy start?

Until now, our entire energy has been focused on production. Now we will get into the business of using our marketing and promotional muscle to create awareness. The process will roll out in a trickle down manner across various mediums, be it on the channel, online or even on ground activities. We are also talking to a couple of companies regarding sponsorship.

Any further film projects in the pipeline?

Not as of now. We are waiting for the response to the film before we decide upon our future course of action.

What about further programming initiatives for MTV?

A new programming block soul2soul will start airing next week. This show rides high on the huge wave of health and mind consciousness that is growing. We felt that we could add something new by giving our spin to it. In addition MTV Bakra with Cyrus Broacha will be back with a bang shortly.

The MTV special, titled Staying Alive: A Global Forum on HIV/AIDS which featured former US president Billl Clinton will air on 27 July. The hugely publicised VJ Hunt, which took place in Mumbai earlier this year, will air on the channel on 29 July.

"Through ?Bas Yun Hi? we spotted a window of opportunity to create a new genre of film, which would mix reality and fantasy"

Since the beginning of 2002, how has the channel been faring in terms of share vis-a-vis rivals Channel V, etc, B4U Music?

For the past two and a half years, we have managed to maintain our lead especially in the primetime band and the situation should continue unchanged.

The channel has started airing the reality show The Osbournes? Is there any possibility of an Indian reality show being produced by MTV?

That is something we would certainly look at. After all, television properties developed at home like MTV?s VJ Hunt have now gone into other countries. Therefore, it makes sense to scrutinise television show formats that have been a huge success abroad. Based on the audience reaction to The Osbournes we might look at producing a "desi" show along similar lines featuring a popular personality that the Indian audience can identify with.

Has the channel succeeded in attracting new advertisers during the course of the year?

The situation has been very healthy on this front this year. In fact, we have managed to attract companies marketing financial products like ABN Amro too.

When is the channel going pay?

We are keeping a close watch on the developments concerning CAS. Once CAS is in place, the entire broadcast scenario will change, so it is difficult to anticipate future developments. Therefore, as of now a decision has not been taken.

Reports indicate that Zee and Sony are keen on MTV India joining their bouquet. Has anything happened on this front?

Not just Zee and Sony but quite a few other parties have been coaxing us to come aboard. We however, are at the moment comfortable being a stand-alone channel. If you examine the television scene, Aaj Tak and BBC World are going from strength to strength without being strung along with other channels.

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