Fragmentation of a niche: a music dilemma – content or commodity...

Broadcasters in India have turned their attention to the music genre and 2011 has already seen the launch of two Hindi music-only channels – Mtunes and Mix. But can this Rs 300-350 crore ad market take more players? Advertisers and media buyers are not too convinced.

e4m by Noor Fathima Warsia
Updated: Sep 12, 2011 8:29 AM
Fragmentation of a niche: a music dilemma – content or commodity...

The year 2011 has seen the launch of two prominent Hindi music channels – Mtunes and Mix – and the announcement of various regional music channels, including 9X’s Punjabi music channel Tashan. At present, television in India houses over 19 music channels, and the ad size of this genre is pegged at Rs 300-350 crore. According to data from TAM Media Research, for the C&S 15+ audience in the Hindi speaking markets, music viewership has grown from 2.4 per cent share of the overall TV pie in 2009 to 3.1 per cent share in the first half of 2011. However, despite this increase, music genre continues to be one of the lowest time-spent genres at present. It is understood that viewers spend only an average of 3 minutes a day on music channels.

Efforts of music channels such as MTV and Channel [v] to differentiate themselves through reality and fiction content, and the subsequent entry of channels such as Bindass that focus on the youth TG, combined with the presence of music-only channels, can be credited for the increase in viewership in the genre. However, the dilemma facing the genre is that while on the one hand, it is the music-only channels that seem to have a simpler business model and better numbers, music is seen as a commodity and the only way for the channels to survive the genre is to differentiate.

Music is equal to Youth
Multi Screen Media’s music offering, Mix, got a few thinking when it stated that it would manage its playlist in a manner that would attract different demographics in different dayparts. But Nikhil Rangnekar, Joint CEO, Spatial Access, has a simple question to that – if the advertiser wants a housewife, why would he invest in a music channel?

Rangnekar echoed the general sentiment that the music genre is seen as a youth targeted genre. He also stated that youth as a TG was not easy to demarcate on viewing hours or avenues and forms of content consumption. A point reiterated by MTV’s Senior Vice President Aditya Swamy. Swamy observed, “A viewer watches something on our channel and he downloads it on his phone and also puts it up as Facebook status. Viewers today are already engaging with us on all of these fronts and hence, you can see the kind of traction that MTV has on social media platforms.”

According to Kunal Jamuar, Executive Director - West, MPG India, even though the new music channels would pose competition to the established players by virtue of the fact that MTV and Channel [v] are still seen as ‘music’ channels, MTV and Channel [v]’s offerings that cater to youth would benefit them now.

For an advertiser like Kotak Mahindra Bank, which has recently intensified focus on the youth TG of 21-25 age group, the predicament is different. Karthi Marshan, Executive Vice President & Group Head – Marketing, Kotak Mahindra Bank, explained, “In the current ratings system, we cannot see the numbers of the 21-25 TG. In addition to that limitation, the music genre viewership is very small at present when it comes to discussing marketing plans or media mix, so addition to more channels is barely a talking point.”

For the likes of Marshan and Rangekar, the launch of new channels in the genre does not matter beyond a point for advertisers or media buyers.

Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd’s Executive Director – Revenue and Niche Channels, Joy Chakraborthy, did not mask the fact that the new channels were creating pressure in the space. He said, “In a network, music channels give you some clout on a larger level, but in a very strict sense, it has become difficult to stay in this genre now. With digital distribution platforms facing bandwidth problems and carriage issues on the analogue platform, copyright costs and so on, the genre is becoming tougher every day.”

The Commodity Quotient: Acquired vs. Created
A key challenge for music channels is that they are seen as part of a “commodity” genre – all players have the same music content. While Rangnekar pointed out that at a time when top players were focussing on reality content a gap for music-only channels had indeed opened up, the big question was how much differentiation could happen if the activity boiled down to managing playlists.

Marshan, too, added, “This genre is more commodity content, because most of these channels have the same songs and promos playing all day long. I agree some channels are working on reality and fiction content, but there is no differentiation apart from that.”

TAM Media Research data shows that despite their commodity nature, music-only channels are managing decent ratings for themselves. In 2011, 9XM has been on the clear lead in the first two quarters. MTV has followed closely behind. The other channels doing well in the top order are Mastiii and B4U Music. The likes of Bindass and Zoom that also get similar TG have fared better than a Channel [v]. But as Channel [v] is undergoing a transition, given its experimenting with fiction, it is still a wait and watch on how this fares for the channel.

MSM’s Mix would focus on music. The channel’s head, Neeraj Vyas, told exchange4media, “The potential in this space is immense and we believe that if the playlist is managed well, it can bring in newer and more audiences.”

Kalyanasaundaram, Creative Director, Mtunes, observed, “When it comes to music channels, what clicks universally is music and only music. If we look at history, even research shows that as soon as a music channel tries to get into programming, the channel’s ratings come down. Last year, MTV decided to not categorise itself as a music channel, but they had to come back. Programming can be a part of a music channel, but not its heart and soul.”

Mtunes is India’s first HD music channel, where the channel’s complete focus is on seamless music. In the channel’s second phase, it is reintroducing the artists of 90’s such as Alisha Chinoy, Daler Mehendi and so on.

Channel [v]’s Head Prem Kamath agreed that over the last few years, audiences had gravitated towards Bollywood music and this was evident in the programming of most channels. This led to minimal differentiation. He said, “We realised this limitation a few years ago and decided to build on content that can leverage our brand and all the history it has. From the launch of India’s first reality show, ‘[V] Popstars’, to the country’s first youth fiction show, ‘[V] Dil Dostii Dance’, we have come a long way in serving the tastes of the audience.”

Channel [v] experimented with fiction with ‘Dil Dostii Dance’ in the last quarter and has now launched ‘Humse Hai Life’.

More channels is not equal to more spends
Marshan said it straight, “For us, launch of new channels doesn’t mean we would start spending more.” A point that Mohit Beotra, Head - Brand & Media, Bharti Airtel Ltd agreed with.

Beotra also observed that at the end of the day, it was about the right viewership, and that it did not matter how many channels were delivering that. He said, “It’s not whether more options come up. The trick is to have sustained viewership.”

Clearly, advertisers are not about to increase monies and this implies the challenge that music channels would be facing in the advent of increased competition. The right strategy for a music channel – acquired or created – may not be as easy to figure out, but broadcasters sure seem confident on the roads they have taken.

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