While 2009 has been a fairly good year for most of the players in the music genre, the emphasis was on rebranding. Zee Music was rebranded as Zing!; Channel [v] got a new tagline – ‘Bloody Cool’, and MTV dropped ‘Music Television’ from its name.
Many changes were made in the content, too – from a 24-hour music channel, Zing! now has a mix of music and reality TV, while the non-music content was upped in channels such as MTV and Channel [V] considerably. For many, MTV is anything but a music channel now.
That was 2009, and clearly that is not where this genre stops. The year 2010 promises to be another feisty year for the music channels, where the action includes channel launches as well. exchange4media spoke to the music industry heads to know how the existing channels are gearing for the competition ahead.
Engaging the viewer
According to Anurag Bedi, Business Head, ETC, Zing! and Zee Trends, the process of rebranding would continue since no clear winner had emerged despite the re-invention. “Engaging the viewer while creating appointment viewing with non-music content will be the most important aspect of programming that would help attract a wider audience,” he said, adding that the focus of his channels in 2010 would be more on Bollywood-specific programming.
Punit Pandey, Vice President - Advertising Sales, 9XM, said, “Although 2009 was a trying year for INX Media, 9XM performed well. While the competition is busy introducing reality and other non-music content, we continue to believe in the power of music to connect with our audiences.”
“The year 2010 will be a year of consolidation for Channel [v] after the rebranding exercise,” said Prem Kamath, GM - Marketing, Channel [v].
Music or non-music content?
The channels underwent rebranding with an aim to expand their audience database and tap into new markets. This has also resulted in changes being effected in the programming line-up of these channels. While stating that music still brought in a sizeable chunk of viewership for music channels, Bedi noted that non-music content such as youth reality shows introduced variety, besides helping create appointment viewing. He added, “We will try and maintain a 60:40 mix of music and non-music programming.”
Pandey pointed out, “Viewers drive programming content, and as long as you’re giving them what they want, they’ll keep coming back. So, whether it’s music or programmes, as long as you understand the pulse of your core consumers, you will be successful.”
Meanwhile, Kamath felt that the channel that engaged its viewers by providing compelling content would work.
Of overcrowding and segregation
However, with about 13 channels in this space, is space for more music channels in India? Zing!’s Bedi explained, “It is not easy for any new player to come in as cost of content and distribution is extremely high and thus, the space is already overcrowded. However, there can be room for more as snacking viewership pattern will continue with audiences and the gain can be at someone’s loss.”
9XM’s Pandey, on the other hand, is very optimistic about the introduction of new music channels. Echoing similar sentiments, Kamath of Channel [v] maintained, “There is always space for great programming.”
Considering the fact that India is a segregated market, will the segregation of channels also help? For example start a hip–hop channel or a channel that airs only rock music?
According to Kamath, “Outside of Bollywood, the commercial viability of those niche channels will be fairly limited.”
“Given the current distribution scenario (or rather the lack of it), we need to be realistic in talking about super-specialised content. The barriers to matching audience taste are still very real and cumbersome,” felt Pandey.
Bedi observed, “Radio has managed to do this internationally, where you have dedicated hip-hop music/ rock music/ jazz music stations. However, Bollywood cannot offer such fragmentation for channels to adopt such segregation. Segregation can be possible in either retro/ contemporary or English music, and only experimentation would help define such a niche channel.”
According to him, the way forward for players in the music genre in 2010 would be to create a unique identity and brand experience as well as differentiation in presentation. “Snacking viewership will continue, as 40-50 per cent of the content is identical across the channels in the genre,” Bedi added.
Pandey, on the other hand, concluded by saying that instead of forecasting, he would rather take one step at a time and evolve organically in tandem with the changing times and audience demands.