Emphasis will be on experimenting with newer things, newer content: Anshul Ailawadi

Ailawadi, Viacom18’s Youth, Music and English Entertainment Head, speaks about the YME cluster growth, launches of new properties and road ahead

e4m by Sonam Saini
Published: Mar 11, 2022 8:55 AM  | 8 min read
Anshul Ailawadi, Viacom18

Viacom18 has strengthened its Youth, Music, Entertainment (YME) cluster and launches after foraying into the Non-fungible tokens (NFT) space. The YME unit recently launched the Fully Faltoo NFT platform which saw over 3000 digital collectibles sell out in no time. The marketplace is now preparing to launch a new line of diverse digital collectibles from its iconic brands such as MTV, Vh1, and Comedy Central. Fully Faltoo, the brand's first short-form video offering, will also be launched, with over a dozen new web shows and fully entertaining snackable content. 'KaanPhod,' a brand-new business division, will allow emerging musical artists to showcase their talent.

The network also revealed the season's new launches, including MTV Roadies, will embark on its first-ever international journey in South Africa with a new host and show elements. Furthermore, MTV Hustle 2.0 will continue the search for India's next big rap sensation in the country's first-ever rap reality show's second high-decibel season. Colors Infinity expands its content library with the unique proposition of 'The Inventor's Challenge,' bringing to light the journey of an idea from paper to a working prototype of the product created by amateur inventors.

In an interview with exchange4media, Anshul Ailawadi, Viacom18’s Youth, Music and English Entertainment Head, spoke about the YME cluster growth, launches of new properties, plan for the future and more


How has been the growth of Viacom18's youth cluster in the last two years? 

Our cluster has five channels (MTV, MTV Beat, VH1, Comedy Central, Colors Infinity), and if we look at the total viewership across digital, TV, and all platforms, it’s back in every way, and so are the revenues.

A lot has changed in terms of the consumer perspective. 2020-21 have been difficult years for everyone, but especially for young people, who have the longest future ahead of them. So we're seeing a lot of exciting changes in that sense, which is that people want to return to the world of escapism. They want to be a part of the creator economy, which is becoming increasingly powerful.

And how it has been for the individual channels- MTV and MTVBeats? 

For MTV, the viewership has been strong across TV and digital. We also experimented with sports offering on MTV, which attracted a different kind of audience to us, especially in non-primetime hours (early morning and late-night timeband). Our Music channel, MTV beats, is again number one in its space, and it's strong and steady. Our social following has also grown substantially in our followers and subscribers across platforms. 

Has sports content helped MTV reach new audiences, brands, and categories? 

I wouldn't say there are new categories, but we have seen people who were not advertising return in a limited way. Furthermore, premium sports is not as mainstream as the TV shows we produce, so from an absolute number, it's not like it will add to my channels’ viewership, and this is true for every sports channel. However, in terms of quality of reach, it is advantageous to attract a younger audience, particularly from urban markets. We saw an increase in viewership from southern markets such as Kerala.

Under revenue pressure, some broadcasters have shut down their English Entertainment channels. Is this putting more pressure on the category? What is the future of this category? 

We acquired new content for our English GECs after conducting extensive research into what works and what do people desire. We looked at what is the need that an English entertainment television channel fills. Two things emerged- First, there is a need for curation. At the end of the day, OTT platforms can lead you down a rabbit hole, and consumers can get lost. So, for us, the curation proposition is compelling, which is why we've acquired content that we believe is relevant.

The second piece is that we have the world's largest English-speaking population, and limiting that consumer requirement to only one platform makes no sense. Of course, there have been headwinds that the business is in a tight spot, which is very obvious, and therefore, the business model must be corrected. The consumer's need does not change.

Is the rise of video and audio streaming platforms having an impact on the youth and music category? What are the prospects for this category?

This is not a new phenomenon. When Roadies first aired in 2003, it was a highly relevant show for the average viewer. It was relevant five years ago when OTT was launched. It is still a relevant show today, in an age of OTT, short-form videos, social media, and TV. So, I don't think it matters when you approach it from the consumer's perspective. We don't take a TV or a digital approach; our focus is solely on the consumer. From a holistic standpoint, we will notice that the properties are designed in this manner. The way to look at things is to aggregate, so we will see significant growth across TV, social, and OTT. We can already see that partnerships have changed, as has the way content is used.

From a strategic viewpoint, we've realised that when we started original content in 2003, we were the first to give creators a voice, and we've seen that space managed by a lot of digital platforms now. So, in the context of that Fully Faltoo, KaanPhod, these are the two launches that we are doing separately, which is again a creator-first offering in which we give talented people a chance to be visible across all platforms. This is something unique for us as we haven't done this before. 

What is the advertiser's point of view? Do they examine the TV and the digital together?

Today's advertisers understand that the value of the property is critical, and that value must be distributed across platforms. Today, we have very deep partnerships with which we deliver on social, TV, and OTT deliverables. Advertisers understand this as well, and you will notice that our brands are present across the board.

How are MTV shows doing on VOOT? 

We don't look at things through a television or digital lens. For us, we know that there are numerous touch points, including TV, OTT, and social media platforms. We're taking a property-first approach to this, so we launched a new show called Anything For Love, which has gained a lot of traction, a new format, new face, new concept, which was launched last year. The show was envisioned not for TV, not for social, not for digital, but for the consumer, wherever the consumer wants to consume it. All of our current shows are doing well.

As a media house, what was the purpose of foraying into the marketplace? 

It's more about establishing a connection with our audience. We must be present in all touchpoints where our audiences are present in a feasible manner. So, as we saw the crypto space grow rapidly, we saw an opportunity and a brand connect. And who wouldn't want to own a piece of our history? that was the deal. So, with that in mind, we entered the NFT space and will continue to do more innovations.

We're also working on innovations over there, covering a wide range of aspects of NFT that haven't been studied in depth in India. I believe we will complete all of this in the next six to nine months. Our initial response was very promising; within 36 hours, we sold 3013 pieces. 

After NFT, the network announced its multiplatform content strategy for its Youth, Music and English Entertainment cluster. What led to these decisions? 

We realised that our target audiences were all over the place. Actually, there has been a lot of fragmentation of touchpoints with the audience, which everyone talks about. What no one talks about is that each touchpoint is a different canvas with a different grammar. 

When we create content for TV or OTT, we have a very different perspective, but a lot of young people are consuming different content that is available on YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram. We are very familiar with this market because we have been producing short-form content for brands for many years. So the question was, can we launch something like this and expand our market? That's when FullyFaltoo debuted. KaanPhod, on the other hand, was a less obvious but equally important choice. We felt there was a lot of asymmetry of opportunity in the music space, so our platforms are big on TV and OTT on social media. So we decided to give talent a chance and collaborate with them to create sounds that we believe should exist. So that was the driving force.

What is going to be the focus area for the cluster this year? 

The first is to multiply all of our properties by ten. It's in line with our new consumer insights, so every property will be pivoted, and we're working on it. Roadies will be the first one that consumers see, and it will be a unique concept that goes back to its roots. Existing properties are being amplified, even to the digital realm, by launching creator-friendly propositions such as Fully Faltoo, KaanPhod, and Fullyfaltoonft.com.

Apart from all this, the emphasis will be on experimenting with newer things, newer content, as seen in English GEC. In addition, we plan to launch a new IP on MTV in the coming months.

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Snap’s growth engine slows down globally, India bucks the trend

Snapchat India ops doubled its revenue in FY22. While globally, it posted almost flat revenue in the December quarter

By exchange4media Staff | Feb 8, 2023 7:09 AM   |   2 min read


Snap Camera India Ltd, the Indian arm of Snapchat’s parent company, has doubled its revenue in India to Rs. 66 crore in FY22 from Rs. 33 cr in FY21, according to data sourced by Tofler. 

The company, which entered the Indian market in 2019 and currently enjoys an estimated 150 million users in the country, recorded a 114% jump in net profit for FY22 to Rs 6.2 crore. 

Its expenses in India nearly doubled year-on-year, going from Rs 28 Cr in FY21 to Rs 57 Cr in FY22. 

Snapchat derives a big chunk of its revenue from advertisements. It also launched a premium subscription service in India in August 2022, called Snapchat+. 

In contrast, Snap’s growth has slowed down globally. It recently posted its quarterly revenue of $1.3 billion, almost flat from the year prior. For the full year, its revenue grew 12%, a slower rate than predicted. 

Global economic constraints, weaker advertiser demands, increased competition in the social media market, disruptions to its ad business from Apple’s app privacy changes,  high interest rates and inflation are being cited as the prime reasons behind the slow down in growth. 

The situation appears to be even worse in the current quarter. Snap said it has already seen a 7% revenue decline so far in the first quarter compared to the year prior. It estimates revenue for the first three months of the year will be down between 2% and 10% compared to the previous year. 

Snap also posted a net loss of more than $288 million in the quarter, compared to the $22.5 million in net income it earned in the same period a year ago. The report marked the fourth straight quarter of net losses for Snap. 

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Meta and MeitY team up for digital safety campaign

Meta has also launched #DigitalSuraksha on Safer Internet Day, with several new initiatives for online safety

By exchange4media Staff | Feb 7, 2023 4:35 PM   |   5 min read


Meta today announced its partnership with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) for the G20 Stay Safe Online Campaign. As part of the partnership with MeitY, Meta will create and share helpful resources in multiple Indian languages through various channels, to spread awareness on how to stay safe online.

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The resources under the G20 Stay Safe Online will cover themes such as tackling online frauds, how to report harmful content, tips to keep yourself safe when interacting online and more. India is at the cusp of becoming a $ trillion digital economy and at the time when India is holding the G20 presidency, this strategic partnership will not only support and equip the existing Internet users but will also be beneficial for the rapidly increasing new Internet users in India.

Speaking on the partnership, Akash Tripathi, CEO, MyGov said, “Under PM Modi’s vision of India’s Techade, we are witnessing rapid digital adoption and with this growth, there is a need to create easy to access tools and resources to protect users from increasing cyber crimes. We, at MeitY, have designed a Stay Safe online campaign in this year of India's G20 Presidency and we are glad that tech companies like Meta are taking a lead in supporting the government’s vision of building an inclusive digital space which is free of severe online threats.”

On Safer Internet Day, Meta has also launched #DigitalSuraksha campaign builds on the company's efforts to offer a safer and inclusive internet to everyone.  The first phase of #DigitalSuraksha includes a partnership with Delhi Police to provide digital literacy to users in Delhi. The current phase of #DigitalSuraksha also includes a slew of measures on enabling digital education and literacy across youth well-being, child safety, tackling misinformation as well as the overall education of users towards various safety tools and resources available across Meta platforms.

Natasha Jog, Head, Public Policy, Instagram and Policy Programs, Facebook India (Meta), said, “The G20 Presidency opens up a great opportunity for India to design and create an ever-inclusive Internet model for the world, and we are excited to partner with the Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology in this endeavor. Creating a $1 trillion digital economy requires an ecosystem that is safe and empowering and we will support the government’s campaign by providing users with education, tools and resources to protect themselves in this rapidly evolving digital world.”

Providing Digital Literacy

Law enforcement agencies are a critical partner in ensuring online safety, under its #DigitalSuraksha campaign Meta will work with the Delhi Police on a 2-month long programme to provide digital literacy to 10,000 students across various schools and colleges in Delhi. Further, Meta and Delhi Police will jointly build resources to educate users about protecting themselves against online/ digital scams. As part of this partnership, Meta will also train Delhi police personnel on Meta’s various safety tools.

The #DigitalSuraksha campaign finds expression through a Digital Nagrik Pledge, which was also launched by Meta today, encouraging people across India to become responsible digital citizens (Nagriks). Built on Meta’s partnership with CBSE to provide Digital Citizenship course to 10 million students and 1 lac teachers, Digital Nagrik Pledge will further support the Indian Government’s objective to ensure an open, safe, trusted and accountable internet. The goal of the program will be to get 1 million people to pledge and to become safe digital citizens over the next one year.

Building Consumer Awareness

Underscoring the critical importance of educating users, Meta has also unpacked a series of consumer awareness initiatives on the tools and resources available for people to stay safe.

Building on the partnership with Delhi Police, for a period of one month, Meta will wrap one train on Delhi Metro’s Yellow line to educate users about safety tools available for them on Meta’s platforms.  Commuters will be redirected to Meta’s safety tools through a QR code.

A new ‘Help protect children. Don’t Share. Don’t Comment. Report.’ campaign was also launched, to prevent the sharing of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and encouraging people to report such content instead. The campaign will educate users on the harm of sharing CSAM, and the impact it has on the victim and will encourage anyone who sees harmful videos and images of children to protect the victim by reporting it immediately to Facebook. The new campaign builds on the ‘Report it, don’t share it,’ campaign launched by Meta last year.

This year’s theme for Safer Internet Day underlines a crucial aspect of supporting young children by having conversations on life in the online world. With an aim to support and encourage meaningful conversations between parents and children around critical topics like use of social media, mental health and digital wellbeing, Meta has launched UnGap. A series of six episodes, UnGap is a chat show featuring pairings of well-known parents and children that includes actor Sheeba Chaddha and daughter Noor, actor Ahsaas Channa and mother Kulbir Badesron, comedian Abhishek Kumar and father Sundar Baalaji  and entrepreneur Roshan Abbas and daughter Ayatal Abbas, among others.

Additionally, an awareness campaign on ‘tips for tackling misinformation’ was also launched with Yuvaa, through short videos. Available in Hinglish, 15-second campaign videos will feature six simple tips and tricks on tackling and identifying misinformation.

Meta will continue to add more initiatives to the #DigitalSuraksha campaign over the year. These will be geared towards reaching a larger set of users by educating them, creating more awareness and advancing India’s agenda of digital inclusion and growth.

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Nicobar awards digital media mandate to First Economy

The digital marketing agency will undertake the brand's media strategy and overall media buying across all the digital platforms

By exchange4media Staff | Feb 7, 2023 3:48 PM   |   1 min read


Lifestyle brand Nicobar has awarded its digital media mandate to First Economy. The digital marketing agency will be responsible for the brand's media strategy and overall media buying across all the digital platforms. 

To reach the masses, the brand specifically wants to promote its collection and uphold its position in the market through performance-driven marketing. 

"During the inception of Nicobar, we always had a brand in mind that stays unique in this world of over-flowing repetitiveness. Nicobar, with its distinctive products, has always made its consumers happy and satisfied. To help the business grow, we wanted someone who had a great reputation for handling performance marketing. First Economy stood up to all our expectations." said Raul Rai, Co-founder, of Nicobar. 

First Economy has served many prestigious clients and delivered promising numbers to them by upscaling their growth charts. "Performance marketing has always been our strongest point and we have proved ourselves time and again. With this alliance, we wish to add value to the brand’s journey ahead and look forward to bringing a change in the lifestyle industry, " said Jigar Zatakia, Founder, of First Economy Pvt. Ltd. on acquiring Nicobar’s performance media mandate.

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Pocket Aces lays off 20% staffers

Co-Founder & CEO Aditi Srivastava has said via a social media post that the company is taking steps to keep the operating model resilient

By exchange4media Staff | Feb 7, 2023 10:01 AM   |   1 min read

Pocket Aces

Pocket Aces has said that it will be laying off nearly 20% of its total workforce.

The pink slips are being given to staffers from the content and production teams, as per reports.

Aditi Srivastava, Co-Founder and CEO of Pocket Aces said in a LinkedIn post that the company has to take “difficult but necessary steps to keep operating model agile and resilient.”

The company runs digital channels like Filter Copy and Dice Media. It recently raised funding from Sequoia India, DSP Group, and 3one4 Capital.

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Centre forms panel to mull if competition law needed for digital companies

A parliamentary panel has earlier recommended that there is a need to act against anti-competitive behaviour in the digital market

By exchange4media Staff | Feb 7, 2023 9:04 AM   |   1 min read


The Centre has formed a special committee to consider if there is a need for a separate competition law pertaining to digital companies, media networks have reported.

This comes after a parliamentary panel recommended the need to act against anti-competitive behaviour in the digital market.

It has also been suggested that a law be put in place to ensure a fair and transparent system.

Towards the end of last year, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Anurag Singh Thakur informed the Rajya Sabha that over 2,800 digital news publishers have furnished information under the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code of the Information Technology Act, 2000 rules. These rules provide a code of ethics for digital media publishers.

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Google Bard, direct competitor to ChatGPT, announces soft launch

Bard, which is based on Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), was test released earlier than expected in direct response to ChatGPT

By Shantanu David | Feb 7, 2023 7:26 AM   |   3 min read

google bard

The AI arena continues to heat up with Google announcing the imminent launch of Bard, its director competitor to Microsoft-backed ChatGPT, which has recently taken the world by storm.

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai announced the soft launch of the AI to "trusted testers" in a blog post on Monday, Feb 6, US Time.

Pichai wrote, "Bard seeks to combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence and creativity of our large language models. It draws on information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses. Bard can be an outlet for creativity, and a launchpad for curiosity, helping you to explain new discoveries from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to a 9-year-old, or learn more about the best strikers in football right now, and then get drills to build your skills."

Bard, which is based on Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), was test released earlier than expected in direct response to ChatGPT, developed on Open AI, which has been heavily backed by Microsoft (the tech giant recently announced a further  USD 10 billion investment in the technology and said it will be introducing it to a suite of its products including but not limited to MS Office, Bing among others).

ChatGPT has been making headlines, and indeed writing the news, with the conversational AI having been used to do everything from writing code and composing music to writing college essays and news articles to even passing business and law school exams, all at the prompting of a few words.

This is a huge potential risk to Google Search, the foundational product of the tech titan and a major contributor to its revenue through the advertising and preferential placement of products on its search pages.

As Pichai wrote, "One of the most exciting opportunities is how AI can deepen our understanding of information and turn it into useful knowledge more efficiently — making it easier for people to get to the heart of what they’re looking for and get things done. When people think of Google, they often think of turning to us for quick factual answers, like “how many keys does a piano have?” But increasingly, people are turning to Google for deeper insights and understanding — like, “is the piano or guitar easier to learn, and how much practice does each need?” Learning about a topic like this can take a lot of effort to figure out what you really need to know, and people often want to explore a diverse range of opinions or perspectives."

While tech enthusiasts have celebrated its achievements, several academicians and researchers have urged caution, with several universities even changing the format of their entrance processes so students can't use the AI to write their college application essays. And while this article hasn't been written by an AI (yet), watch this space for more.

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Will Google announce ChatGPT's rival on Wednesday?

The company has sent out a YouTube invite, indicating plans to strengthen Search and Map, possibly by incorporating the AI chatbot

By exchange4media Staff | Feb 6, 2023 1:09 PM   |   2 min read


Google is expected to announce its chatbot technology as early as on Wednesday as it responds to the success of ChatGPT, a Microsoft-backed AI chatbot that has caught global attention over the last three months.

The tech giant has scheduled a 40-minute event for Wednesday 8 February (7 PM IST), where it is expected to reveal its plans about incorporating its own AI chatbot (LaMDA) in Search, Maps and other products to make them interactive.

“We're reimagining how people search for, explore and interact with information, making it more natural and intuitive than ever before to find what you need. Join us to learn how we're opening up greater access to information for people everywhere, through Search, Maps and beyond,” reads the description of Google's YouTube invite for “AI-Event”.

Giving a hint in this regard, Sundar Pichai, the Chief Executive of Google’s owner, Alphabet, said last week during earning calls that the use of AI had reached an “inflection point” and the company was “extremely well positioned” in the field. He also spoke about making these language models available in the “coming weeks and months” so that people could engage directly with them.

The Google spokespersons are silent about it though, perhaps to create more suspense around the launch.

LaMDA shot to prominence last year when Google suspended and then dismissed an engineer after he went public with claims that LaMDA was “sentient”.

Large language models such as LaMDA and the one behind ChatGPT are types of neural network, which mimic the underlying architecture of the brain in computer form, and are fed vast amounts of text in order to be taught how to generate plausible sentences. ChatGPT has become a sensation after being used to create all sorts of content from school essays to job applications.

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