MTV Beats, the second music channel from Viacom18, aims at doubling its ad revenues by the end of 2018 as it will complete its second year of operation around the same time. Launched in September 2016, when Pepsi MTV Indies was shut down by the network, the channel has focused on differentiating through scheduling in a genre that has little or no variety in content.
Ferzad Palia, Head, Youth, Music and English Entertainment, Viacom18, said, “We have been on track on all our financial milestones that we had. We would look to double by the end of 2018. We have increased our ad rates by about 30 per cent since launch. We increase our rate basis giving value to the advertisers. It will always be a function of what special you are offering the advertiser.”
The channel has tried to go beyond the 30-second advertising too with sponsorships for its short format content and integration opportunities for the brands. However, aston bands and L bands are something that the channel says it will never go for, since it interferes with the viewing experience. “We were the first channel to go full screen. We have far smarter ways of monetising,” added Palia.
The top five advertising categories on the channel are FMCG, Auto, Handsets, Telecom and E-commerce (no particular order). Palia says the brands consider this channel to be favourable and one of the reasons is that it strictly follows the ad cap of 12 minutes.
Palia explained, “MTV Beats stands out with differentiation and that is a key for the advertisers. Another important thing the advertisers like about us is we do not exceed the 12-minute cap. The viewing environment for a regular TV spot on MTV Beats is much better than any other channel in the genre. Ours is a highly de-cluttered environment. We work hard to make it work for advertisers too, along with a great sponsorship opportunity and integration opportunities.”
The growth in terms of advertising cannot be considered since the base was zero about a year ago, at the time of the launch. But the ad rates and the fill have both been on the upswing. “Inventories are full to the extent that we would accept a particular rate. We have been made a certain offers that don’t fit into our business model. We work diligently towards the product.”
Initially, the channel did not launch with a lot of advertisers, but that’s because many of them wanted to wait and watch how the channel performs and how their TG behaves. But after about six months after the launch, these brands have started flocking to the channel.
According to Palia, the launch year was fantastic. “Demonetisation and GST affected the market from the monetisation point of view, but the market was soft for everyone – for the entire media landscape. But even in the GST months of July-August, the channel was on an upswing.”
The rub-off from the brand MTV is one of the main reasons for this demand for the channel. When MTV launches a 24x7 music channel, everyone takes notice. So sampling was sorted and the channel has invested a lot of effort, time and money into perfecting the packaging, creating differentiation by introducing short format and screening each day as a separate day–with Fit Spot with Sunny leone, Babaji ki Chaunki and others.
Palia said, “We have seen short format is successful. We will increase that in 2018.”
The channel will launch a new season of Gaano Ka Rafu Center 2.0. The second season of the show will be hosted by No No Money Singh (Sahil Khattar), inviting musicians, singers, composers and lyricists as guests. Strengthening its promise to provide an intense musical indulgence through specially curated properties, MTV Beats enhances its Wednesday programming with Dil Beats. The show that will revolve around romance and its various nuances is scheduled to premiere in February. Another reality show, MTV Beats Discover, a platform for upcoming cover singers, will also be launched soon.
“These programming attempts have shown in our viewership numbers. We have been able to gather 400 million plus annual reach (2+ All India) with 118 per cent growth in channel viewership by the end of 2017 for both the overall audience and youth (2+ and 15-30 HSM Launch Week 43 of 2016 versus Week 52 of 2017). We ended the year with time spent of 25 minutes as the highest watched contemporary music channel (Week 52’17 15-30 HSM),” said Palia.
He added, “We have achieved the kind of reach comparable with our competitors who are 10-12 years old.”
The genre has seen an annual growth of about 50-60 per cent in last three to four years and that boosts the potential of the genre. Recently, two players have exited the genre – Channel V and bindass Play. Palia feels that the serious players will survive, while fringe players will fold up, making the genre less crowded.
The genre has little or no differentiation in terms of content. There are two wide sub-groups of channels – one plays retro music and the other set is the ones like MTV Beats, which play contemporary music. Both types of music have grown.
“Scheduling is challenging and the key is to map the mood of the consumer and playing a certain type of song at a certain time. It's about creating repeat business, since they like the environment, packaging and feel of the channel. People get attached to the environment and word of mouth is working very well for us. These repeat viewers become our brand ambassadors,” told Palia.
Many internet options are now available with apps such as Saavn and Gaanaand YouTube. So is digital a challenge?
Palia answered, “Music TV channels have grown by 50-60 per cent. Digital has been significant in the last couple of years but it’s not hurting TV. Many years ago, radio and iPod were the only options to consume music outside home. Now there are options on digital. Music consumption overall is growing, the digital listenership is an add-on to the television consumption. TV is growing in reach and time spent. One is not coming at the cost of another. In fact, people sample the newly launched songs on TV and then repeat them during their travel time on the internet.”
The music genre on television has been under-indexed for a long time and the onus often lies with a few leading channels that have not been able to increase the ad rates in tandem with their viewership. Does this hamper the valuation of the genre?
Palia said, “These are music channels playing retro music and cater to audience that is found most on GECs. Hence, for duplicated audience, some channels are used as frequency builders in a plan and therefore do not command a higher rate. Ours is a different audience and this audience set is very hard to reach. There are channels that do pull the genre down because of their not-so-smart monetisation and historical under-indexation. But this is true for all the genres.”
Speaking more about MTV Beats, Palia told that MTV Beats on linear retransmission can also be watched on phone. The channel is also available in UK and Middle East.