Cautious investments serve MTV Beats well

MUMBAI: When digital media made it easy for people to listen to songs anywhere anytime, it sounded like the death knell for music channels on TV. Years later, however, they continue to survive.

Viacom18 head-youth, music and English entertainment Ferzad Palia told that the consumption of music on television has actually gone through the roof in recent years. “TV viewership is growing because you listen to music on TV and if you liked it then you go out and consume it at whatever point of time. There is no other genre that I know is growing by 50-60 per cent.” Palia said that there was a 60 per cent growth in the music genre on TV in the last four weeks of 2017 as compared with the same period of 2016, quoting Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) data.

With the conversation on digital media intensifying, the Indian music industry is also shifting towards it. Palia said that MTV Beats, a pure-play music channel launched by Viacom 18 in the second half of 2016, is profitable as the management is very cautious about where it invests. “There are different genres, which we did not enter for various reasons as they are financially not feasible.”

Contrary to what Palia said, a media professional speaking to said that it may not be viable for music channels to sustain beyond a point with licencing prices going up every year and the only monetisation avenue being ad revenue. Stickiness to television is limited today when it comes to music. New songs are repeatedly played after which they are downloaded from paid apps.

Considering the cost incurred on rising royalty charges and the digital onslaught, Palia said that the company takes a measured approach to launching channels. “We focus on our products, we invest right and we also do not like to over-invest.” He further said that their prime indicator is consumer acceptance that effectively shows up in their revenue. “Eventually, you are in the business for consumers, so that’s what we focus on,” he adds.

According to FICCI's 2017 report, the music industry continues to shift towards digital consumption on the back of cheaper data rates, better digital infrastructure and availability of curated digital music on growing digital platforms. In 2016, the Indian music industry was estimated at Rs 12.2 billion and is expected to grow to Rs 25.4 billion by 2021 at a compound annual growth rate of 15.8 per cent.

Moreover, Palia revealed that the channel is focused on creating its own intellectual property content.

MTV Beats targets the 15-30 year age group and has hit 400 million annual number of viewers. “While the youngster is watching, the parents are also introduced to this channel, so the entire viewership for us has grown tremendously. What others have done in 10-12 years, we have managed to accomplish in these many months,” he adds.

The channel’s viewership grew by 118 per cent by the end of 2017. It also ended the year with 25 minutes time spent, becoming the highest watched contemporary music channel.

In the time to come, MTV Beats aims to grow its roster of shows with more celebrity faces and music-related content.

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