“I think 2014 was a year in which we questioned a lot of what was seen as the Holy Grail,” says Aditya Swamy, EVP, Viacom18 & Head, MTV & Pepsi MTV Indies. Swamy talks about the 35 per cent spike in ad rates implemented by the channel on the back of increased viewership numbers, refreshing changes in content, peer power being the new youth mantra as opposed to peer pressure and more…
There have been number of changes on the back of research findings from Curious Minds (MTV Youth Study formally released in March) made in the content, How has this affected the viewership numbers?
From January to July, we’ve seen a 50 per cent jump in our viewership. In 15-24 HSMs, we were delivering 2 to 10 million in January, the last week we crossed 15 million. January week 1 of 2014, we were at 10 million. Every year we’ve seen organic growth in viewership. Digitisation has helped our viewership. Moving from a new way of TAM to this measurement, we saw a growth in reach, overall TV households are growing. 8 to 10 per cent viewership is what we see every year. That’s the organic growth in viewership. But from January to July, we’ve seen a 50 per cent growth in viewership. All of this is because of the changes & the investment in our brand-new environment again reflects our insights. This 50 per cent rise in viewership has also come on the back of stickiness. Reach has pretty much been the same,the time spent was 20 to 23 minutes which has crossed 30 minutes. We’ve always had good reach and viewership but our content has become much more sticky.
What are the changes in content that have led to increased viewership?
One of the big things that our research said was young people today don’t have to fight the system. They don’t rebel with their parents, the system believes that youth can drive positive change. So we said why do we need to fight? Everything is there in front of us. It is not about peer pressure anymore, it is about peer power.
We took the core of Roadies, which was vote-outs and we said let’s take out vote-outs, your performance will decide whether you’re in the show or not. Usually, the peak ratings for the show are during the vote-outs every year. It was a big risk but it really worked well with the audience. Lot of audiences came back to Roadies, and core Roadies fans told us this is the true spirit of the show; no matter what, I will perform and I will win. The change in the format of the show, made a huge difference to the way the show was consumed and perceived, and the kind of people who came for auditions.
For MTV Webbed, we felt it was a good intersection of socially relevant and yet entertaining programming. It was how you could prevent yourselves from the dangers of the internet. It said ‘Surf Smart Stay Safe,’ which is very relevant to today. Our study said 13 is the new 18. Kids are walking out of kids’ channels at 11 and 12 and walking into our genre. We also looked at early internet users, which are people in school. So the show had people in school uniforms and not in college, Gone were jeans and coloured clothes. In the first season, we had every episode hosted by a different personality and movie stars. We felt empathy was missing and having a girl would add strong empathy with the audience. So for the very first time, we got a host who was not an MTV VJ. We got a mainstream actress Kritika Kamra and build empathy with the audience. It worked really well with the audience.
We started off doing 10 episodes. We have now extended that season to 24 episodes. We are finding more stories, people are writing to us and sharing experiences. We have tied up with the Cyber Helpline. The show ends with a cyber expert talking on how young people can protect themselves.
Splitsvilla has really been a revelation. This year’s Splitsvilla was the highest-rated season in the last seven years. Typically, format fatigue is a common term that we hear in broadcast. We also got Sunny Leone, which has worked very well for us. Splitsvilla for the first time opened at the rating of 123 TVTs. The last one was at 169. Every episode has crossed 100 TVTs.
What does this translate into from a business point of view?
We’re now implementing a price hike in our ad rates, with a 35 per cent hike in pricing. We still want to be the most effective medium for advertising reaching people. We have long term relations with the advertisers. We have been very fair and not asking for 50 per cent hike. We are saying to advertisers that you have been with us for long. We have increased our investment, for us to sustain that we need increased revenues. However, we continue to be very effective for you. That will happen if our price increase is still shy of our viewership increase. That is a win-win. Everybody wants extra return for their marketing dollar and more viewership.
Hero has been with us for ten years, we have a three-year deal with Coke Studio. We have a large relationship with Pepsi now. Vodafone is doing significant amount of stuff. We want to be very effective from a pure buyer point of view. So there is only 35 per cent increase in our rates. The good news is that the big advertisers have already agreed. The new pricing has been implemented in the last ten days.
What is the content mix looking like for the channel, given that there has been an increase in the original content as opposed to music hours?
Our music now varies between 5 to 7 hours, and the rest of it is content. So 17 hours is the viewing day part (7 am to midnight), after midnight there is much more music. In these 17 hours we have 5 to 7 hours depending on the grid. 7am to noon is always music and then we have a couple of hours of music in the day.
We have 7 hours of original content in the week. Bollywood music content is undifferentiated. Everybody is playing it, so how much can you build a brand based on undifferentiated content? However, it is a huge part of youth and India. It gives a healthy contribution to our viewership.
Pepsi MTV Indies was launched in April this year, how is the channel picking up in terms of advertising and viewership?
Indies has helped us talk to two kinds of audience. An urban audience who watches Star World, which didn’t have a reason to come to MTV, but now with Indies, we’ve got something for that audience as well. This audience goes to NH 7, Sunburn, Blue Frog and Canvas Laugh Factory. We really want to be the universe of the young. MTV talks to mass India. We have Pepsi, Nike, Pernod Ricard, Viber and Hike. Obviously the churn is much slower than MTV, as of now, If I have 200 brands on MTV, I have 20 on Indies. Our distribution has been very positive. We are available in over 20 million homes. All the big platforms are now carrying us.