Vh1 turns 10; to focus on content acquisition

MUMBAI: English entertainment music channel, Vh1 has had quite an interesting journey. As it completes 10 years in India, the channel plans to focus its energies on content acquisition with renewed vigour.

The channel's roller-coaster bumpy ride began exactly a decade ago on 1 January, 2005, when MTV India and Zee-Turner teamed up to usher in this English channel.

Likening himself to an old fossil, Viacom18 EVP and business head, English Entertainment, Ferzad Palia says, “There were around 175 competing channels when we launched. We had to differentiate our product from the rest and we had to simultaneously build the genre, so that the seeds of investment would start bearing fruit.”

The channel started off fairly low key, with 40 English music videos in three cities, and had to re-popularize a variety of English music throughout the country. On the other hand, MTV changed its course and programming content to Hindi. Vh1, thus, catered to audiences, who had grown up and thrived on English music.

Right from its launch, audiences often mistook the brand name for Vhr. Hence, it was tough going for the channel to captivate audiences initially. Multiple approaches ensued. The first one being print ads, wherein the name of the channel was literally spelt out below the logo for people to comprehend the brand well. Secondly, the channel began launching live events such as music festivals to create brand recall. Thirdly, radio and BTL promos along with constant verbalizing on the channel, helped differentiate the channel as well as its name. Finally, it captured youthful audiences in places like salons, had tie-ups with popular branded cafes, gyms and similar set-ups.

This was followed by integrating the brand with its first on-ground event in 2005 called the Hip Hop Hustle where VH1 roped in Nokia as the presenting sponsor. The next move was to scale up on the content, wherein long format shows like Pimp My Ride, Buried Life and Fabulous Life were introduced. As part of its weekend programming for mature and older audiences, melodious Vh1 Classics were aired.

The channel then aggressively decided to acquire prestigious award shows like the American Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, Video Music Awards, and the Grammy’s amongst a host of others.

Palia adds, “Currently we showcase one award show every month and through our ‘Vh1 Ticket To Ride’ contest, winners are sent abroad to actually witness the awards live.”

The genres consumed the most on the channel are Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and soulful pop music. In 2014, VH1 bagged the rights to exclusively air two immensely popular talent shows – none other than Britain’s Got Talent and X-Factor.

The two English-speaking metros namely Mumbai and Bengaluru, were the first two markets, which performed well for the channel. However, the channel caught the fancy of audiences in Delhi and the NCR region soon enough.

In 2008, the presence of the channel had grown beyond the eight metros as cities like Pune and Ahmedabad surprisingly also started witnessing growth. Palia credits the DTH phenomenon at that time to have aided the growth in smaller markets.

Talking about the opportunities offered by the channel for various brands, Palia said, “Instead of just a 10 second slot, we offer customization for various brands in categories such as jewellery, chewing gum, automobiles and FMCG through our on-ground events and shows.”

Palia roughly places the ad revenue for the category at approximately Rs 175 crore, informing that the channel took eight long years to first break even, and only then did it see profits trickling in.

“Currently, the channel has a very mixed viewership share of 20-22 per cent in the English music and entertainment category,” informs Palia. Age-wise, urban audiences in the age group of 15 - 24 contribute to 55 per cent of the audience share, while the age group of 25+ also devour and view the channel avidly.

On social media, the Facebook page of Vh1 has approximately 31,18, 576 likes while its Twitter handle has as many as 234,000 followers. An in-house team closely follows and monitors the content on these platforms. The channel uses them to not only harness instant and real-time feedback, but also to create the necessary buzz ahead of aggressive launches.

Vh1 has lined up a host of exciting activities as it celebrates its tenth year in India. As a part of this initiative, the top 100 videos of all time played over the last 10 years are being showcased. Secondly, the most played and popular videos on the channel of all time are being aired to cater to its audiences. Thirdly, it has decided to go down memory lane and telecast its first local show called Vh1 Music Diaries, which tracks the nostalgic journey of the channel.

The celebrations commenced at the recently concluded Vh1 Supersonic Festival, which was held in Goa where almost 15,000 fans sang ‘Happy Birthday’ with gusto. This was followed by multiple anniversary bashes hosted on New Year’s Eve across six metros namely Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Hyderabad. Various contests giving out prizes for winners are also a part of the celebration plans.

Palia signs off saying, “Our aim is to keep evolving as we follow a similar aggressive, focussed strategy for content acquisition. In the years ahead, we will surely set innovative trends and let our audiences enjoy the best content.”

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