"MTV is going to have the first regional channel globally, here in India" : Bill Roedy - MTV Networks International president

William H Roedy's belief in localisation is complete. When in India, his business cards are printed in Hindi on one side, English the other. The 55-year-old president of MTV Networks International is in Cannes one day, China the next and India the day after, but still finds time to chat up lay people on their TV viewing preferences.

Credited with spearheading MTV's global expansion into the world's leading multi-media youth brand and one of the ten most recognised names on the planet, Bill Roedy has made his mark linking the youth culture on-air and online, creating a powerful marketing vehicle for 200 multinational advertisers.

This former armyman started his career as the national accounts manager at HBO, moved to MTV Europe as its chief executive and speedily made his way up to be appointed president of MTV Networks International in 2000. In the last three years, Roedy has aggressively built MTV across the board: its overseas operations are now growing at between two and three times the rate of the more mature US channels. His pioneering decentralisation strategy and localisation efforts have best paid off in India, which Roedy says is one of the priority markets MTV is eyeing in the coming months. caught up with him on the sidelines of the annual Youth Marketing Forum to get an insight into what lies in store for the network in India. A few snippets from the chat -

How is MTV India doing in comparison with other markets in Asia?

Why Asia; I would say it's doing very well compared to anywhere else in the world. I have in fact established India as one of the six priority markets for us, and mind you, we are present in 160 markets... so you can see it is doing very well. But of course, I want it to do better.

What does 'making India a priority market' translate into in actual terms?

Huge investments in the channel, launching new products, ramping up the scale of operations and making it bigger and better.

Would new products include VH1 (the Viacom owned music channel meant for the older demographic)?


In 2004?

I am not sure.

"Nick Jr is definitely on our list, but first I want Nickelodeon to be much bigger and better"

What about Nick Jr? Is that also poised for an entry into India?

Umm... maybe, maybe. But as for pushing Nickelodeon, yes, we are very keen. And local programming will be one of the main drivers on this score.

Nick Jr is a very good product. It has done very well, particularly in the UK, as also in Latin America, and other parts of the world. It's definitely on our list, but first I want Nickelodeon to be much bigger and better.

Your plans to buy a stake in a regional channel seem to have been almost finalised?

We have been in talks with them (Southern Spice) for a while now, but nothing has been concretised. But we don't like to acquire, we like to start.

Of course, we do acquire sometimes. I can't think of any other market in the world where we have a regional channel. We have genre specific channels, but not regional channels. My prediction, rather guess, would be that we are going to have the first regional channel globally, here in India.

"There's going to be increasingly non music programming here - as we go along, therefore, there would be a greater need for other channels that are more into music"

MTV's localisation strategy has really worked. Which are the new genres that you now plan to tap to give it a further push?

In England, we have nine music channels, all in one market. They are all doing well. We have acquired another music channel in Holland, and recently, a video gaming channel in France.

Our focus is that the channels are either genre driven, depending on whether its appropriate for the market, the demographic and the market you are targeting. So you have genre, music, demographic all contributing to it. We will just the grow the market as we have elsewhere.

Which other genres can be tried out on a music channel in India?

Dance might work well here, we already have 70 per cent Hindi film music, can we do more there? It all depends on what the audience wants - we always try to create what the audience needs are.

There's going to be increasingly non music programming here - soap operas and the like, which we have already started doing. As we go along, therefore, there would be a greater need for other channels that are more into music.

How has the revenue growth been for MTV India?

We have been growing at 20 to 30 per cent in the last four years, CAGR, but whatever it is, it is not enough. I think we need to be better. Yet, I think we have done better than most.

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