Television

'When you are a market leader, it's necessary to shake things a little' : Ashish Patil- MTV India GM and senior VP creative and content

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MTV India was primarily known for music, comedy, spoofs and “Fully Faltoo” attitude. The team of Cyrus Oshirdar (creative and content), Cyrus Broucha and Cyrus Sahukar was giving its viewers a “no-tension” dose of comedy and music.

In 2007, Viacom and Network18 got together to create a joint venture. What followed was the redrawing of the roadmap for MTV. The positioning changed and music became shorter in line with its new image of being a youth entertainment channel.

The man in charge of this content revamp was Ashish Patil as he churned out shows that would stand the new look – Its My MTV. From Fully Faltoo to Kick Ass and from Bakra to Splitsvilla, MTV has scored points in segmenting, targeting and positioning for the youth.

The channel has also extended its wings in the US, New Zealand and Australia.

In an interview with Indiantelevision.com’s Gaurav Laghate, MTV India GM and senior VP creative and content Patil says that the game has just started.

Excerpts:

Is the ongoing producer-plex owner's tussle affecting MTV as there is no new music release to lap up for content?

We have in any case reduced our music content as a strategic move. Moreover, whatever music we play is full length, which comes out after 1-2 months of release. So far we have enough of new music to run on the channel.

Why are you going less on music and more on non-music content?

We have repositioned ourselves as not just a music but a music-plus-masti (fun) channel. It is a youth adda (hangout) channel now. Last year we were playing approximately 70 per cent music content, which we have reduced to 45 per cent at present. By the end of this year, we will be having only 25 per cent of music content.

What was the need for this change in identity?

There was consumer as well as a business need. Research suggested that youth is looking out for much more than just music. Youth has needs ranging from style, fashion, romance, passion, thrill, and much more.

And so far as the business goes, the music pie is limiting. Music as a commodity is playing everywhere; so eyeballs are limiting and revenues have hit a ceiling.

Even the market leader in the music channel genre had to change?

You have to grow the product. And it's necessary to shake things a little or else the leader will also get stagnant. The world has gone too far and to get our core audience's eyeballs, we have to lead the other mediums as well. Also a lot of emphasis is on packaging, looks and graphics, apart from content.

So what is the new positioning of MTV?

We have created a new category for ourselves where we are no longer a niche channel. Nor are we a general entertainment channel. We are laser focused on the needs of the youth and have evolved as a mass youth channel. Many players tried to copy us, but failed as it is a very difficult path to tread.

'Music as a commodity is playing everywhere. So eyeballs are limiting and revenues have hit a ceiling'

How will you describe your TG?

Our core audience is the 18-21-year-olds. Within that demographic, it is the SEC A in the metros particularly Mumbai and Delhi. Our next target extension is viewers among the age group of 15-24 years, SEC AB 1 lakh towns, in the Hindi speaking markets. Beyond that, we look at the 12-35-year-olds (SEC AB, All India 1 Lac+ towns).

This target audience is very fickle and impatient. If they don't like something, they have multiple options to switch over to. And anything that catches youth eyeballs is competition for me. Be it malls, gizmos, movies, mobiles, ipods, internet, etc.

So that is why you are making your presence felt on internet and other space?

The intent is to take MTV to every place where the TG is. Be it web, mobile, on-ground, merchandise. It's a circle of lead, reflect and affect - one leading to the other. I will follow my viewer everywhere. You see the kind of response we have on the Roadies community on Orkut. It has over 300,000 members now. We have tied up with PVR Cinema, Inox, T.G.I.F., cafes etc for our shows. Roadies merchandise is available in more then 20 categories. We are tapping audiences everywhere by reaching out to them.

But don't you think some of the content is not fit for small towns, or non-metros?

I don't think that content is not fit for people in the smaller towns. Youth everywhere have same aspirations; the core of youth is the same. So my content is appreciated throughout by my TG - be it metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore or non metros like Gwalior, Indore, Chandigarh etc. Also, some of the content may be more evolved. But in such cases, I do have a simpler version on the same premise for mini metros or small towns. The idea is to have a spectrum of content for different people.

Is your programming strategy confined to unlicensed thrill, living on edge and speed?

Not just that. It is, of course, one part of it. But we have other shows like On The Jobs, which talks about alternative careers; ibibo Superstar (the making of stars); Splitsvilla (intense romance); Roadies (which has a cult following now); and who can forget MTV Bakra (known for its wit). Then we have spoof movies, which are well received.

So my aim is to cater to all the needs of my TG. We are now building on our franchise. Earlier I had only Roadies as a fixed offering on Saturdays at 7 pm. Now I have shifted it to Sundays and got the highest opening for Splitsvilla season 2 on Saturdays.

So you mean you are now getting appointment viewing?

Absolutely. As I said, earlier we used to launch shows on Saturdays at 7 pm band. I had a great following there, courtesy Roadies. It was a gamble when I shifted it to Sundays, but it did well for us. Now I have viewers for Saturday as well as Sunday. Also, in December, I launched Haven @ 7 on weekdays. So I am taking baby steps to get more viewer attention. I am already getting more viewership than many general entertainment channels (GECs).

So what are the plans ahead?

As I said, I am taking baby steps. We have just started. From making just one Roadies two years back, we launched many new shows last year. This year, we will launch even more shows. Recently, with Force India we have launched The Fast and The Gorgeous and are coming up with Pulsar MTV Stunt Mania soon.

How has the JV between Viacom and Network18 helped in MTV's growth in India?

In many ways. It has been a fabulous ride since the JV has been formed. It is in many ways kind of a vitamin supplement. Earlier, it was MTV and Nick supporting each other and suddenly I have the strength of a full network; it's much more than just financial support.

Also, both (Viacom and Network18), as players, are front-foot batsmen. It has put our transition in the fourth gear. Our efficiency has increased and so has our brand value, distribution, marketing, headcount and infrastructure.

Have we seen MTV's revenues grow over the last couple of years?

We have doubled the revenues during this period. We are expecting a 30 per cent growth this year.

Ad sales accounts for 65 per cent of our revenues, of which 5 per cent comes from international clients. Around 15 per cent comes from affiliates, which is also increasing. 15 per cent comes from Viacom Brand Solutions (client lead stuff, events and advertiser funded programming) like The Fast and The Gorgeorus, Stunt Mania etc. The remaining 5 per cent comes from L&M and movie previews (Ghajini).

Also, we are opening up supplementary revenue streams through mobile, web, and even through ticker. Our ticker has a fan community on social networking sites and advertisers want to be there.

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