| 27 Mar 2023
The challenge is when you grow quickly how do you maintain that growth: Ferzad Palia

MUMBAI: MTV Beats was launched in September 2016 to redesign Viacom 18’s youth and music portfolio. This 24x7 music channel replaced the networks existing music channel, MTV Indies and aimed at reaching a wider audience, Bollywood music fanatics. The TG was clearly 15-30 and they did expect a certain turnover given the brand MTV attached to its name. Well, everything fell in place for MTV Beats in less than a year with the advertisers being interested in its unique show formats. The channel also became a favourite amongst the TV viewing audience with a viewership of over 400 million people.

In an interview with Radioandmusic, Viacom18 Head Youth, Music and English Entertainment Ferzad Palia speaks about MTV Beats achievements, challenges and future plans. Excerpts.

How was the first year for MTV Beats?

In just a year our penetration levels have been phenomenon with a viewership of over 400 million people, which is huge. It’s at par with brands that have been there for over a decade. So, it’s not just for a number of people who have viewed us but also the amount of time they have spent on us. Our time spent is highest in our category while they have stayed for longer. Also, apart from those rating numbers which are public we also do our own research which is pretty extensive.  Our consumers are quite happy with the product we are giving them. If the genre is fairly commoditized and almost everyone is playing the same music then there comes differentiation which is extremely important. In that case, we have done fairly well.

What are the differentiating factors?

We schedule MTV Beats every day with a different theme and that has been accepted well.  The new short formats fun concepts like Baba Ki Chowky, Fit Stop with Sunny Leone and House Party with Badshah have picked up well. So, these are the major differentiators in the genre. We have also been complimented by the viewers that it is the best-looking channel in the category. The hundred percent screen that we utilize for the video by going full-screen -- rather than those black bands (tickers) -- has added a major value.

What are the major challenges?

We have various challenges such as distribution, placement and awareness levels in terms of marketing. To monetize our brand we had to focus on these points. On all three fronts, we have done exceptionally well and are available almost everywhere. In today’s DNA age of 800 television channels, it’s very difficult to make your presence felt. But, as an organisation, we are focused on making the product available to everyone. There is also awareness through differentiation that we created. MTV Beats was born out of consumer insight, demand for more music. So we were like take here a new channel MTV Beats, a 24x7 music channel. Right from our first month, the channel had overtaken many other channels and it just keeps growing. The best thing for a brand is when your consumers are your brand ambassadors. Even when we go to various out of home establishments we see MTV Beats playing in gyms, salons or pubs. The challenge is when you grow quickly how do you maintain that growth and how do you keep pace with that level of growth.

What was the marketing strategy for the first year?

Our launch spot had this birth of a baby (the launch video: MTV Beats-Mubarak Ho! Baap Hua Hai'). It got a lot of attraction and created a lot of buzz. The other important part of our marketing strategy was what we did with our content by creating a different theme every day. Because beyond a point how much we will go and say that MTV has launched a new music channel. There have to be some pegs that could be spoken about. One was the on-air presentation the on-screen presentation, social-TV link which was a heavily digitally and socially linked product which itself did a lot of marketing. That is why people feel close to the product when they participate. And then, of course, we used unique techniques in terms of our creative’s itself. The challenge is when you set a certain benchmark you need to improvise yourself even more in terms of innovation which is what we would focus on.

Digital is growing at a rapid speed. This is a matter of concern for television. What is your take on it?

The good part is that there has been a growth in the music genre, especially on television. It is the fastest growing genre on television as it’s scaled by over 60 per cent over a year. Obviously digital is also rising which is great so that effectively shows that overall consumption of music has scaled up. One has not cost the other. Everyone’s growing because there are more avenues to consume and it’s not that people have stopped watching television. Overall music and television business have got bigger this year for us.

Who do you look at as your competition in the music space?

There are two sets of channels even in the music genre. There is one set that is largely retro based like Mastiii, 9X Jalwa. These kinds of brands operate to a different audience with a different kind of product leaning more towards the (retro kind of music). Then there is a contemporary set of channels where we belong. We give out the latest music catering to our younger audience which we focus on. Among the contemporary set of audiences, our performance is phenomenal. Even in the music genre there is a clear distinction. We don’t compete with brands like 9X Jalwa and Mastiii.

What are your further plans?

We would be launching new short formats, new thematized months, weeks and blocks. These things work really well. It also keeps things fresh for the viewers and that’s what the difference is between various brands. For example, Baba Ki Chowky alone is viewed by 170 million people on television. These numbers are staggering. I am not giving the number of people who have watched it on Facebook or on Voot. So, that has worked extremely well for us and has also worked for advertisers because they get a category in which they believe.