"[V] will constitute youth panels in various cities in the country" : Keertan Adyanthaya Channel [V] VP, content and communications

Keertan Adyanthaya, Star India's vice president content & communication for Channel [V], will soon complete his first anniversary with the organisation. It's been quite a journey for this chemical engineer, who detoured into advertising before landing up as content head of a music channel.

A chance meeting with a media director of an ad agency led Adyanthaya to take a well calculated plunge from engineering into the world of advertising. For the next five years, Adyanthaya worked with ad agencies such as Maa Bozell, Euro RSCG and Ogilvy and Mather. During the dotcom boom, he caught the Internet advertising bug and joined MediaTurf, India's first professional new media consultancy firm floated by an ad agency.

Another 'chance' meeting with Star India's programming 'guru' Sameer Nair inspired Adyanthaya to plunge into music television.

Adyanthaya spoke to's Ashwin Kotian about his stint at Channel [V] and Popstars 2, which he is all geared up for.

How has the positioning of Channel [V] changed in the last year?

Channel [V] represents the youth of today and our programming encompasses their dreams, aspirations and attitude. Our positioning as a youth-centric channel has been clearly entrenched in the minds of the ad agencies, advertisers and viewers.

We believe that "18-24 years" is a state of mind and audiences of all age groups can think like those who belong to this age group. We have been perceived as the first avenue and an ideal route to bond with the youth. Recent studies by ORG-MARG and Nielsen have proved that we are seen as the preferred channel - especially in the 15-24 SEC ABC category in metros.

We pay a lot of attention to feedback received from viewers - whether it is through surveys or verbally or in writing. We are in the process of constituting a youth panel in various cities in the country. This youth brigade will scour the college campuses and give us feedback of what's new, hip and happening. These inputs will be studied and gradually incorporated into content and promotions.

Our trendy and "youthful" - literally speaking - VJs have been scaling peaks of popularity. A lot of effort goes into packaging and presenting them. Our inhouse team of stylists conducts research and develops a look of the season for our VJs. Our strategy has paid dividends. This is reflected in the fact that several advertisers who wish to communicate to the young-at-hearts have been using our VJs to endorse their brands.

"We have proved that language is not a barrier as far as music is concerned. We have played Tamil songs and other vernacular songs when they started gaining popularity..."

What efforts have been made to mould audience tastes?

Channel [V] has always striven to mould the taste of Indian audiences and align it to international levels. Our promise is to play the best music on the planet - not necessarily in India. We played the Ketchup song three weeks before anyone else played it. We also played the Arabic version of the Kisskiss song six months before the Australian cover version by Holly Valence became popular.

We have also proved that language is not a barrier as far as music is concerned. We have played Tamil songs and other vernacular songs when they started gaining popularity on the national scene; brought them into the mainstream.

Shows such as Crush constantly get tweaked and see a lot of innovations. Very soon, you will see an R&B international countdown show called Juice with internationally renowned VJ Cindy Barbridge. If you notice, the Indian programming format is as good as and pretty similar to those in the developed markets.

Tell us about Popstars 2?

Essentially, it will follow the same format as last year. The nationwide hunt will start in April-May 2003. The jury will meet thousands of aspirants and come up with a list of 24 candidates some time in June. This will be followed by the "transformation" process wherein top music industry professionals, designers, stylists and grooming experts will create the band's musical and image identity.

However, the image will depend on the personality of the finally selected foursome. In August, the debut of the band will happen at a national level where it will be introduced to the country. Later on, a concert will formally showcase the musical launch of the band some time in October. The entire process will be captured for television in 13 episodes.

"Eventually, their talent will ensure that Viva doesn't remain a band merely to be "looked at, but one to be heard!"

What happens to Viva now?

Viva's second album will be launched soon and we shall continue to extend support to them. We have a three-year contract with the band members.

Viva didn't have to struggle the way other aspiring bands have to do. However, I must say that the band members have been making rapid progress. They are capitalising on the wonderful inputs provided by the stalwarts in the music industry to deliver results. Prominent music directors such as Anu Malik and AR Rahman have approached Viva with film offers. Eventually, their talent will ensure that Viva doesn't remain a band merely to be "looked at, but one to be heard".

Is interactivity a must for music channels?

For us, it is all about audience interactivity. Interactivity has gained prominence with the advent of the Internet and mobile telephony. We have organised contests wherein winners were sent to Los Angeles for the Aerosmith contest. As part of the Oscar award winning Chicago film contest, we shall be sending people to London. Our shows such as Control [V] and Video Watch, which is SMS-based, have received tremendous response. Our sales team has started taking detailed briefs from advertisers and we examine the possibility of coming up with innovations revolving around the same.

Earlier, broadcasters (including music channels) weren't very amenable to providing advertising friendly content. We have managed to strike the right balance as we still don't compromise beyond a certain point. We have partnered with advertisers and developed content which has been appreciated by the viewers.

Give us some examples of innovations which succeeded?

Consider the example of our Cheese It Cheese off show. The Swiss brand was looking at wacky ways to reach out to the audiences. We developed a theme-based music show wherein viewers were asked to include the words Cheese it Cheese off in popular songs which they sang. The winners got a chance to visit Switzerland which is popular for its cheese. Similarly, we did Bada Bisleri contest where we used the look-alikes of Big B and other Bollywood stars. The winners got a chance to fly to Malaysia. During the (cricket) World Cup, we did Panga and our VJs went to different parts of the country. Similarly, we did Jumpstart with Nescafe and the SMS Man show with Samsung mobile phones. Very soon, we shall be partnering Hindustan Lever's Kwality Walls for a major youth related multimedia promotion.

Channel [V] won the silver in the corporate communication category at Ad Club Bombay's Abby Awards 2003 for the Gabbar ID. Our creative team developed a series of ideas based on popular Bollywood film characters such as Gabbar Singh (Sholay) or Mugambo (Mr India).

Does the music change during different day parts? I notice a lot of English music is being played late at night and popular Hindi music during the day?

We cater to distinct audiences during different parts of the day. From 9 am onwards, we target the young housewives. In the afternoons (2-3 pm), we address the school/college kids who are just switching on. By the evenings 7-8 pm, we target the mass audiences and post 11 pm, we address those who prefer to listen to western music. There is a huge chunk of young adults who are watching TV (especially music videos) at night. As far as weekends are concerned, we have been presenting concerts of global music stars and the audiences love them. India hasn't seen too many international acts recently. We have been supporting local artistes and are planning to increase our support. Popstars is just another way of encouraging talent. Our shares have increased in first three months of the new year which is a rub-off from the successful Popstars show.

"We feel that radio has helped music channels. As people start listening to more music, they would want to view it on the music TV channels."

How do you react to competition?

Competition is healthy and we welcome it as it will grow the market. We feel that radio has helped music channels. As people start listening to more music, they would want to view it on the music TV channels. Using this rationale, we have conducted cross-promotions with RadioCity (Star's FM radio venture) including ones like Goddess, Bollywood Sirens. Having positioned ourselves as the winners, we shall definitely benefit from the same. Recently, we have developed some competition bashing promotional spots - such as the one in which families are encouraged to use the "V soap" for best results. The year 2002 was a good one for the channel and this trend is continuing even now.

What are your hobbies?

I am a TV addict and love to watch movies, motor sport racing F1, other sports and music. I travel a lot and am into adventure sports. I have done white water rafting and trekking in places such as the Aravali range, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh in India.

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