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Hitting the right tune

The music channel VH1 is the sole player when it comes to bringing international tunes to the Indian televiewers. We take a look at what worked in their favour and the challenges that they faced

Written by Ankita R Kanabar | Mumbai | Updated: April 2, 2014 3:17:48 pm
Australian band Wolfmother during a live gig at Hard  Rock Cafe Australian band Wolfmother during a live gig at Hard
Rock Cafe

The irony is, while international shows, especially American sitcoms are high on the popularity charts with the Indian audience, the channels catering to international music are far and few. Launched in the ’80s, MTV which stood for Music Television and played a large variety of international music, has stopped playing it all together and has instead ventured into different content. The move comes as a surprise, considering that the country is considered as a potential market in recent years, with the increasing number of live shows being performed by international artists in India. The popularity of international music among the youth especially the college going crowd has also grown—as is evident from the huge turnout at several live gigs. For instance, when VH1 had brought the Australian rock band Wolfmother to perform live at Hard Rock Cafein Mumbai, the turn-out was stupendous. VH1 is probably among the sole player, when it comes to channels playing international music. We take a look at what worked in the channel’s favour, their journey so far and why there is a dearth of channels catering to this genre

The challenges

According to Ferzad Palia, SVP & General Manager, English Entertainment, Viacom18 Pvt Ltd, it’s very difficult to have Hindi channels play international music, as they only cater to a certain kind of audience. “There are channels who’ve tried that, but then, they’ve realised that they can’t venture into both the genres of music, otherwise you fall between two stools. It’s also a very difficult genre to be in and to monetise. It took us three to four years of intense struggle before we got our model right for VH1,” he says.

Strategy that worked

Over the years, VH1 has brought international bands to perform live in India. Getting various brands on board to sponsor these musical events, have helped to increase the fan base for international music in India. Tie-ups with various colleges to lure the youth have also worked. “Live gigs are a win-win situation, because they take care of a few things—it’s a great brand-building exercise for us. There’s a serious opportunity for monetisation that exists and more and more brands are willing to associate with events like these, because they’re clutter-breaking. Most importantly, it helps us reach our target audience directly,” says Palia.

Future of international music in India

The future of international music on Indian television still remains more or less an uncharted territory. Whether existing channels will bifurcate into playing international numbers or whether new channels will crop up, to cater to a segment of the audience, is difficult to say, considering the risks involved. Palia though is optimistic and says, “Although, there’s a certain audience that watches Indian television, I don’t see newer channels catering to this genre of music coming up in a hurry. Having said that, there’s still a lot of scope and with the genre growing, the future seems bright for the establishment of newer channels. We would be happy if more channels came in and helped us grow the genre, because it’s not easy to do it all by yourself. If that happens, I’m sure there will be healthy competition. But, like I said, it’s a difficult business, and creating a fool proof strategy of monetising it, remains the toughest part.”

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