Television

MTV, VH1 show-off their digital chops

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If you’re a television channel targeting the youth of today, there’s no way you can ignore the digital medium; be it social media or the Internet. Exactly the mantra that Viacom18’s youth entertainment channels - MTV and VH1 - hitherto positioned as general entertainment channels, are following. And we at indiantelevision.com found out just how much...

Beginning with MTV India, it’s arguably the brand which focuses entirely on Indian youth in the age group of 15-34 years. Having started off as Music Television in 1996, the channel has lately shifted focus to reality shows with the triumvirate of MTV Roadies, MTV Unplugged and MTV Splitsville topping charts among MTV’s reality properties.

Digitally speaking, MTV’s official facebook page boasts 5.5 million likes, with over 36 lakh fans talking about it at the same time. The channel has a presence across Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest and more than 95,000 followers at @MTVIndia on Twitter.

Additionally, MTV India makes and promotes shows that trigger conversations on the Internet including MTV Webbed and Coke Studio as also shows which are exclusively for the web audience.

MTV India’s official YouTube page scores more than 27 lakh subscribers with 4,019 videos including recent uploads of MTV Unplugged season three, Saturday Night Alright, Rann VJ Run, Bollywood Jasoos, MTV Webbed and so on.

Over and above all this is MTV’s official website; the channel’s mainstay in the digital space with picture gallery, video uploads, trends and show trivia as well as snaps of hot properties like MTV Webbed, its new series Saturday Night, and many more.

Coming to VH1; launched nearly a decade after MTV in 2005, the 24x7 pay channel caters to youngsters in the age group of 13-35 years. VH1’s official facebook page boasts 2.5 million likes, with xyz fans talking about it simultaneously. Whereas, it has nearly 36,000 followers at @Vh1India on Twitter. Recently, the channel has initiated a new activity for its show called Vh1 Throwback Thursdays, where the twitterati can suggest old songs VH1 can then play on air.

This year, VH1 has expanded its digital reach with the launch of Vh1 HUB, Vh1 Pulse and Vh1.in; destinations where the youth can set CRBTs, stream music for free on facebook, watch hours of programmed content and stay up to speed with the happenings in the music universe.

VH1 India’s official YouTube page has only 1,004 subscribers, and telecasts promos of its properties such as Indian Musical Compass, Karbonn Smart and Big Hit Katy Perry to name a few.

VH1’s official website tops its comprehensive digital presence with sections like music, entertainment, videos, events, culture and contests. A special tab showcases what is trending on VH1 as well as updates of upcoming events.

On VH1’s cards is a rhythm-based mobile game; one of the first for any music channel in the country. To be made available on Apple and Android phones and tablets, the game features fresh, never heard before pieces of music that would play in the background and add power to it.

MTV India head digital Ekalavya Bhattacharya
VH1, Viacom18 Media VP and business head - digital media Rajneel Kumar

There will be a contest too titled ‘Games of Tunes’, with participation from some of the most talented independent DJs and musicians in the country who’ve worked on original compositions in the electronic music genre

So what lies behind the digital success of these channels?

Says MTV India head digital Ekalavya Bhattacharya: “One of MTV India’s biggest achievements is being recognized as a channel which talks back and cares for the audience. You can’t talk or give feedback to your TV set but you can talk to us via our social networks. We not only listen in to compliments by fans, we pay closer attention to things that our audience hasn’t appreciated. We’ve often actually tailored our on-air content based on the online commentary.”

About VH1, Viacom18 Media VP and business head - digital media Rajneel Kumar says: “It is a symbiotic relationship with our viewers, where we engage with them across content, artistes, events and everything which makes their life musical.”

VH1 not only promotes British music, it airs American reality shows on pop stars from different countries. It screens music documentaries and concert specials, live telecasts and repeats of shows like the Grammy Awards, American Music Awards and MTV Music Awards.”

Kumar calls it a two-way process. “Since we have had a long-term interaction with our audience on social media, we now know their pulse. We understand what kind of music and lifestyle content they like and how our innovations in content and technology can suit their palate.”

Not surprisingly, the channel has ramped up its programming with on-air and on-ground initiatives like Global Music Xpress, Dance 101, Big Brother, Vh1 Playlist, Jazz Masters, Yo Momma and tickers.

What purpose does the channels’ social media presence serve, really?

Explains Bhattacharya: “MTV’s digital destination isn’t just a place where an MTV fan comes to consume repeats of on air content; it is a place where we echo their interests and serve them content that is tailored to their needs. The popularity of our digital assets has changed the way we serve and develop content, massively, as well as the perception of our audience. The success of our digital platform has ensured that digital is no longer just a marketing support but a considerable revenue generating function.”

Says Kumar: “Vh1’s social media networks are an important element of the channel’s daily engagement with its core audience. In fact, the social networks are the primary touch point for all initiatives and interactions. The channel has done and will continue to create socially-driven content for its target audience.”

Speaking of the people who handle both channels’ digital presence; the VH1 team is based out of Mumbai and has multi-faceted resources spanning editorial, technology, creative, graphics, product and marketing while MTV India too has a 20-strong team based out of Mumbai.

Says Bhattacharya: “MTV does not believe in compartmentalizing everyone in specific roles, because there is so much to digital, and there is a lot of creativity and science involved. We have technology, marketing, content buckets and all are bound with the thread of creativity, with a strong focus on revenue.”

What are the channels doing to draw greater traffic to the websites?

Says Bhattacharya: “We are not only present and active on all social platforms, we also pioneer digital innovation. For example, we are the first brand in India to have a show on Vine (Pick Me Up) and the first brand to use Whatsapp and Pinterest, heavily, in campaigns like Nano Drive with MTV and Ceat and MTV Chase The Monsoon. By engaging our audience on multiple platforms, we ensure we are constantly top of mind which consequently increases consumption of not only digital content but consumption of our shows on television.”

Kumar says: “Vh1 is constantly pushing the envelope when it comes to social media. We work very closely with social platforms at both the product level and engagement. The next wave of innovation on social will be around the television screen and social platforms seamlessly integrated. We also continuously innovate on our campaigns for brands that work with us to deliver very strong engagement and brand message delivery.”

For Bhattacharya, there is no specific demographic the channel caters to. “As far as a brand is concerned, everyone is a fan and each of them has an opinion and preference. The content doesn’t choose its audience; the audience chooses the content. The idea is to cater to all types of viewers with differentiated content,” he says. The problem is one property does not appeal to everyone and you can’t get everyone to love everything. Also, a viewer who is very vocal about his dislike for a certain show may not be as vocal about his liking another show on the channel.

What are the achievements in terms of social media?

MTV has won multiple awards for social and digital campaigns at pretty much every event. One of the biggest was when Roadies won the title of the Most Social TV Show in the world, beating the likes of Supernatural, The Glee Project, Pretty Little Liars, WWE etc. “The amount of work we put in on Roadies, specifically, on digital, is of course worth a whole new story,” says Bhattacharya.

While Kumar says: “Vh1 has been the first mover to mark its presence on most social media platforms and continues to grow. Maintaining such a dynamic community is no less than a challenge. It has the biggest network of international music lovers in India in the shortest span of time. Plus we have multiple big ticket contests, taking our fans to the biggest gigs all over the world, there has not been a single quiet day for Vh1 online.”

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