| 21 Feb 2024
INX Media head of music entertainment channels Vikas Varma - Anything before 2002 is retro for us

Market sources say 9XM could well be the first from the INX Media family to get off the block, in early November 2007.

INX Media head of music entertainment channels Vikas Varma refuses to be intimidated by the slew of existing music channels that may pose a threat to the new product, and plans to plunge into the arena with a host of radical innovations - no VJs, a shockingly young TG and a heavy use of animation.

In a chat with's Aparna Joshi at the new INX offices in south Mumbai, Varma details his plans for the new venture.


What is 9XM all about?

It's all about excitement, a lot of colourful things, lot of things happening simultaneously, which will keep people attracted.

Are you targeting the urban youth mainly?

Honestly speaking, I don't differentiate between urban and rural youth or small town viewers. Bollywood cuts across everybody. Munnabhai and Don have been liked equally everywhere. Bollywood music is used everywhere and loved.

So, will older people watch it?

Of course, they will. But the way we have packaged the channel, it's skewed towards the youth. The unique feature of the channel is that it doesn't have any VJs. VJs, I think, are passe. Nobody is really interested in knowing when a song was made and in what context. All they want is great entertainment. They don't need more gyan, which they anyway get from their parents and teachers.

How do you provide the breaks in the programming?

It's broken with interesting features that we are introducing, comedy based and fun, and done in animation. It's very cool, but it's also very expensive! It would have been cheaper for me to get 10 VJs instead of getting one animation feature done. But we have gone for it, as it would be a big differentiation in terms of becoming the USP of our product.

In fact, even in the logo, the 'm' is an animated ball, and it has a lot of movements and dimensions - even expressions!
How would you describe the attitude of the channel?

I would describe it as a Govinda meets Salman Khan meets Shah Rukh Khan and evolves into Ranbir Kapoor. It is totally filmi, totally Munnabhai, totally everything that Bollywood is! We don't equate ourselves with Bollywood - we are in awe of Bollywood! We think it rocks, and that's what we are trying to represent on the channel.

So, will there be no non-film music on the channel?

There will be, if it's good enough to be put on the channel. We are clear that it will be all music that's great, resonates with youth, which the has greatest of production values, shootings, locales and the biggest of stars - that's the music we will play on the channel - and most of it does come from Bollywood!

Do you do your own research to determine the 'hits' that will play on 9XM?

We have done intensive research in various cities, and that has given us the winners among the current hits. The ones that have scored the highest in terms of video and audio are the heroes of our channel. Those which haven't scored very well, will have to wait till they touch a nerve with the audiences.
The channel has a tagline of 'Haq Se' which obviously means the best of the latest get the maximum play on the channel.

How will you divide your dayparts? Are you targeting any appointment viewing?

That's a question we need to ask teenagers today - how do they divide their dayparts? They don't. They live a 24 hour life. They eat when they are hungry, and they constantly crave entertainment. So we plan to be prime time all the time. It's going to be 24/7 hardcore high energy songs all the time.

We have a retro band, christened 'retro gaana' and 'purana gaana' . Anything around 2002 and earlier is retro for us, because for an average 16 year old who is our TG, 2002 belongs to his pre-puberty period!

How big is your library as of now?

I would not like to quantify my library, but it has all hit songs created by Bollywood between 2002 and now. All companies, including Yash Raj, T Series and those that come under the IMI umbrella have been very supportive to us in building our library.

Music channels are nowadays trying to become more of 'youth channels'. Is 9XM also part of a larger media plan?

Music resonates with everybody. The 16 to 20 year olds will listen to different kinds of music because they have a different take on life while the 40 year olds will have their own preferences. But our channel will be strictly music. It's like an iPod, which is only about music, but resonates with every age group, because you have your own music in it.

Yes, we have planned online and mobile initiatives as well, but Bollywood music will stay the theme throughout.

There will be total synergy between the website and the channel. We will encourage viewers to get online and share their comments with us, as well as share their creativity with us. For instance, we will ask viewers to send in their own witty anecdotes revolving around characters like Chhote Bade and Bheegi Billi, and we will use these on air with the contributor's byline and photos.

But that still doesn't get in appointment viewing for the channel?

Appointment viewing has always been one of the struggles of music television. Prime time will always be different for different target groups. So, hit songs will continue to play throughout the day, so that you are seamlessly integrated into the flow whenever you choose to switch on the channel.

Are there plans to include fiction or reality shows to pump up viewer interest?

Bollywood music is the film industry's biggest gift to mankind, and the kind of music videos being made would rival the best in the world today. So, we will bank on that. For fiction, you can go to another channel, but if you want to watch music, come to us!

Aren't you competing with too much clutter and too much similarity on the music channel scene?

There's enough Bollywood music to suffice everyone. But our effort has been to ensure that the same songs played on our channel look different than they do on others. This is done by playing the full songs rather than 30 second versions, and by having elements continuously happening on the channel. You have characters walking by, a lot of side action happening.

That makes the viewing experience different. We have 10 songs playing every hour, unlike others which have lesser number of songs in that same period.
It's like wanting to watch a movie at a particular movie theatre, because I enjoy the experience at that venue more than I do at any other. 9XM should be the best place to watch Bollywood music.


Are you also considering shows that would promote new singing talent, and also pulls in the audiences?


Our channel will be only for successful musicians. So, if they have already proved their mettle elsewhere, they will deserve to be on 9XM.