| 02 Dec 2023
A channel needs to have its own personality: Amar Tidke

MUMBAI: 9X Media has been growing with every step that it takes. Currently, it has five music channels – 9XM, 9X Jhakaas, 9X Jalwa, 9X Tashan and 9XO. All the channels cater to different audiences, but one thing that remains common for them is the audience connect. 9X Media does not believe in having a passive audience, they want an interactive one - an area that the network has constantly been working towards.

In conversation with, 9X Media chief programming officer, Amar Tidke opens up about the network's programming strategy, the success of its animated characters, competition and more. Excerpts.

What are 9X Media’s current plans for its music channels?

There are lots of activities that are happening on all our channels. We are trying to build a lot of audience connect. Going by the same, we recently launched ‘9XM AskTrack’. Here the audience can decide and play their own playlist through social media. They can program the playlist in real time. We also carry their comments and pictures during that show.

We also launched ‘9XM Stardum’ for upcoming independent artists. Here we scout out the talent, collaborate with them and put fresh music. This is bringing something new to the audience. Bollywood is there, but there is also great talent outside. One can see that on YouTube and other mediums. So it’s not just someone who has created an independent video. We work with them from the beginning. We also have ‘9XM Selfiesh’, a selfie-based show. The ones viewing the channel send in their 15 sec videos through social media and that goes on the channel.

Is 9XM trying to build an audience connect at this point in time?

They have connected with our animated characters. We just build on it with whatever we do further. We introduced ‘The Bakwaas Show’ 10 months ago and we have top Bollywood celebrities interacting with our animated characters Bade and Chote. That’s really well received. That’s furthering our connect with the audience because that’s something that they really like. We are also using a lot of social media and technology to communicate with our viewers. So, it’s not a one-way communication, where the audience is just passively sitting and consuming our channel. In the coming months, you’ll see a lot more of that happening.

A lot of channels believe in pure music, unlike 9XM. What is your take on it?
A channel needs to have its own personality, its identity. If you can do that by just playing music or pure music, which is in the Hindi music space with 20 odd channels that would be a tough thing. Now building an identity need not mean building characters. That is one route; there would be numerous other routes. Whatever works for you, you take that up. For us, the characters have worked in creating the identity for the channel. The humour element interlaced with the songs has worked. If you ask anything minus that would work for us – no. Are there any other ways for channels to come up and create their own personality? There are, but what these are, is something that, I don’t know.

Does that mean selling pure music is a tough task?

Minus that doing music today is a tough ask. You have to have some personality or some look for the audience to come back. Music is the core of everything. When it comes to 9XM connect is with Bade and Chote. They also come to us for the latest Bollywood. But, the first thing that pops up when it comes to 9XM is Bade Chote.

Has the fact that youth music channels are returning to music, increased the competition in the Hindi music space?

People strayed outside music and got back to music. Youth has always been with music. We were very clear. We never deviated or anything. We keep an eye on what’s happening outside but we’ve known what we wanted to do. We will continue doing what is our strategy. Yes, competition has increased; so it constantly gets up to thinking of new ways of engaging with our audiences. But, otherwise, our connect has remained intact. Thus, our proposition our offering has always been consistent. At the same time bring unpredictability in forms of concepts will continue. You can expect kickass music from us. That promise continues.

Both 9XM and 9X Jalwa are competing against each other on the BARC chart. How do you look at it?

9XM caters to an audience that wants absolute Bollywood hits and the reason why we launched Jalwa when we did was because we saw a gap of really great music for the last 20 years. 9XM is all about contemporary hits only. So we do not look at them as competitions. They are two channels catering to different music.

Both the channels do not have any blocks like the other music channels. We did not want to create blocks like classical songs, hits, etc. Why should someone come to you only at a certain time in the day? We are talking to youth and we cannot dictate things to them. They are all about now. So that 15 to 30 audience comes to Jalwa for melodies music and 9XM for contemporary hits. One gets the music they want to listen to 24X7.

Are there any new innovations on the marketing front?

We look at connecting with the audience and social media has helped in it. We have an extremely strong following on social media. So there is synergies and sync. We are keeping our ears to the ground. Getting feedback about something that is there on the channel. If there is a gap, we are filling up that gap with what viewers would like to see. We are trying to have constant engagement and dialogue with our audience. A lot of marketing happens through the content that we put out. We were the first few to start Facebook live. We continue to do a lot of interesting things digital. We are leveraging all the five screens and taking that ahead.

What's next?

There are certain things that we are planning but not in the immediate quarter.