Television

'We are taking reality television into the digital domain' : Amar K Deb - Channel [V] head honcho

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Reality talent hunt is one of the success pillars of Channel [V]. The music channel from the Star stable has launched a series of them - from Pop band Viva, which created a 'Dhoom' in the music circle, to [V] Super Singer. More are lined up this year.

While embarking on the next phase of digital-cum-reality shows with [V] Mobile Singer, the channel plans to capitalise on Star Networks' wireless division for introducing innovative and wacky concepts. It is exploring options to create 'mobisodes' for cellphone users.

As the head of Channel V, Amar Deb believes that the success of the channel is based on its pioneering efforts. Ad revenue, he says, has grown by 40 per cent last fiscal while the other music channels have de-grown.

In an interview with Indiantelevision.com's Manisha Bhattacharjee, Deb expresses confidence on the success of the new properties which are lined up for launch this year.

Excerpts:

Channel [V] has always claimed that it has pioneered reality talent hunts. But why haven't these `new-find talents' gone on to become major music brands after the channel stops supporting them?

Well, that's the function of the music industry. For instance, in UK when Hearsay or Bardos Bands were launched, they were handed over to the music industry which took care of them. We act as incubators and take care of them for a maximum period up to three years. If they can fly after that, that is fantastic. Like Pratichee (India's girl band - Viva) did and has just launched her album. We are a television station; we provide and discover talents. The music industry should take the next step.

Pratichee may have been an exception. What about others?

Well, you need to have a discipline. The channel can launch and groom you and do very many things, but finally it is up to you. It is just like any other job; you may get a break, but after that, you have to pump in your hard work and do your own thing.

Reality genre has now spilled over to the general entertainment channels. Do you perceive this as a threat to music channels?

We are just in the infancy of reality television. Yes, we are recently seeing the launch of many musical reality talent hunts. But that's good, we have such a huge population. So the more the merrier!

Would you be exploiting the reality genre further?

Well, reality genre is the not `be all and end all' of television. Yes, reality is great and indeed a fantastic proposition for Indian television. Channel [V] has been the first to explore and create this proposition; we have exploited this genre and have also brought in innovations to all these properties.

So what is the next sequence of reality hunt?

We have taken the reality talent hunt to a new stage -the digital level. [v] Mobile Singer is a clear demonstration of this.

What are you planning to do with this property?

[V] Mobile Singer will be launched on 24 October. We are also looking forward to the next super-model -Get Gorgeous -3 which should hit the air before the calendar year.

How was [V] Mobile Singer conceptualised?

The unique aspect of this show is that it is different from the conventional talent hunt that you have seen so far. There is no auditioning happening and neither is it limited to a few numbers of aspirants who have to face the jury. The show provides all budding singers an opportunity to participate and sing from their comfort zone, irrespective of place. All they have to do is dial in to register and sing any one of Bappi Lahiri's songs.

This is the next dimension of digital cum reality television. We have actually taken reality television into the digital domain, given the fact that last time when we tried out this kind of interface; it has brought us humungous success.

So, what kind of promotions are you building around Mobile Singer?

The promos will go on air in a week. There is a classic 360 degree campaign: hoardings, press and on-ground events like Karaoke parties are being organised. We will have road shows in Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai.



As being part of the Star TV Network we have the ability to leverage on this as on-air is in our back-bone and it is our strength. There are 22 million people who wake up to channel [V] every day.

How has the channel performed in 2005?

The year has been very good. Everything is looking up. We are involved with new shows and every show format is different from the other. We had a fantastic round of a wired show called Pepsi [v] TV Champions. Every show at the end is poles apart and conceptualized on different lines and this has been one of the reasons for success. Some other shows like [v] On The Run, [v] Get Gorgeous and [v] Freedom Expression are all different and have been success stories.

Television is increasingly going mobile. Is your channel looking at this option of 'mobisodes,' now that your sister channel Star One has come up with its first creation?

Yeah, you have to just keep watching your mobile screens. It will come soon. We are exploring this platform.

Isn't it a little weird to have Star One rather than a music channel like Channel [V] start this initiative of plunging into the mobisode platform?

Why? Star One is part of the Star Network. I think The Great Indian Laughter Challenge is fantastic. It is completely superb. Good that they have gone ahead and done it. We are looking at the option and would be exploring that side of the platform. It is certainly going to happen - and soon.

Is the Mobisode platform being used more as a new stream of ad revenue?

Besides ad revenue, this platform provides you great viewer interaction and participation.
Star Network has its digital division? How is Channel [v] planning to leverage it to its utmost?

Yes, we are looking at it. But it is little early to talk about it.
'We will exploit the mobisode platform. It will come on your mobile screens soon'
Movie marketing seems to be a great proposition for music channels?

We are the chosen platform for marketing Bollywood movies. Channel V is the chosen media partner for Shaadi No 1, which is going to be the biggest release for Diwali. We have been doing this for about a year. We get a lot of content and at the same time we are able to promote the movie. We get access to the stars, the video clips and the music of the movie.The journey started off with Darna Manna Hai. But now we are lining up a series of shows weaved around Salamn Namaste and other movies. Preity and Saif cross-promoted our show Freedom Express.
Which are the other movies that the channel has tied-up with?

There are some, but they are in the pipe-line. I can't reveal to you at this stage.
With every movie tie-up, it is the same story. So how do you provide a uniqueness to each project?

Each project is creative on its own. We are like an advertising agency for the movie company. So we work in a completely different fashion. We provide 360 degree creative solutions. It is not just playing the clip or music; more is offered and every time it is a new concept.
Does it make business sense for music channels to tie-up with radio networks?

As and when the peak programming comes up, we do have tie-ups with FM networks. Radio promotions help in frequency building, which is a good proposition. And we are in talks with some of the radio networks for the two properties - [V] Mobile Singer and Get Gorgeous -3.

Music channels are engaged in launching contests. Do contests bring in extra eyeballs and translate into more ad revenues?

Yes, it does bring in extra viewership. Moreover, it gives your viewers a chance to go to Robbie Williams concert or meet say a superstar like Shakira. It acts as a good connector allowing your viewers access to all these big shows. Contests are also very good for generating ad revenues.

Will you foray into non-music programmes?

No, we will not do any serials. Our core is music and we will stick to it. We are a music channel. We will do justice to that positioning and fulfill the demands of our poor consumers who demand good music. We will have music as our core content; it will be flanked by glamour and by fun.

What is the paper that you presented at Promax DBA Awards at Singapore?

I spoke about on- air promotions through icons. I presented Channel [v]'s icons; Lolya Kutty and Simpoo. And I also presented a film on KBC. As the presentation was on icons, KBC was yet another way to use an icon. They have never been exposed to the Indian sense of humour, which is actually astounding the world right now. Indian sense of humour is just coming of age.

One is mostly used to movie and cricketing stars being signed on for endorsements. Now, a 2D animated mascot created by a television channel to promote its identity and shows is being roped in to endorse a diverse mix of products ranging from toothpaste to denim wear.

Any new innovations for the channel?

Well, we have introduced one of its kind speed breaker and another one is an end-slate. Both are two crazy things. Instead of Stay Tuned!, we have said 'Stay tunnd!' It is an innovation between ad breaks. It is an animated character who is completely inebriated with the amount of music that is being played on channel [v] and bangs into a lamp-post and falls down. And the viewer says ? Stay Tunnd! So it is a classic break bumper, while other channels state Stay Tuned! We got a take on it and said Stay Tunnd!

The other thing that we have done is innovate on `Brought to you By,' which has been treated as Brought to you Bai! We have created a character called Bai? a Maharastrian bai, the one we can identify with. The bai is an animated caricature who uses the side space of the television screen and she exploits the space doing the household work while the ad is airing on the screen. This is the first time it has been exploited and it has never been used by traditional television.

Does your channel offer complete back-to-back music without any advertisements?

No! Advertisements are good, yaar! It is great to watch also. Indian advertising is really doing so well also. Why do you want to have a section without these fabulous ads? Aside from the fact that ads bring in revenue, it is also very entertaining. And we are not looking at that right now.

What are your forward looking plans?

Long hours at work. Too many shows to launch, many more innovations to come and many more tie-ups also. We have been doing reality-based stuff, but it wouldn't be fair to stay we just stick to reality. Like we have moved into digital reality hunt with Mobile Singer. So we will get into whatever is innovative.

If cool is the definition of MTV, what is the definition of channel [V]?

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