By Anushree Bhattacharyya
She is known for her bubbly and lively attitude and he is popular for being on the constant lookout for an adventure. No, this is not the usual college girl and guy story, rather it is about the beverage brand Pepsi and youth television channel MTV who in a first-of-its-kind alliance have joined hands to launch a 24-hour Indie pop channel—Pepsi MTV Indies—that will go live by the end of this month.
The first branded channel in the country, Pepsi MTV Indies promises to be different with the focus on promoting independent music, films, art and culture. While 20 per cent of the content will be custom made by the channel, 50 per cent will be music albums and the rest will be licensed from Indie artists. It also plans to shift a few of its shows from the flagship channel to the new one, except its popular show Coke Studio which due to sponsorship issues will be telecast on MTV. An interactive website and mobile application has also been introduced for digital lovers.
In a conversation, Aditya Swamy, business head, MTV India and Homi Battiwalla, senior director, marketing (colas, juices and hydration), PepsiCo India Region, talk about bringing the two youth brands together to launch a new channel. Edited excerpts:
What brought Pepsi and MTV together to launch Pepsi MTV Indies?
Swamy: Indian music is going through a revolution with people now looking out for new forms of music and musicians. The new channel represents independent artists in India, be it in the field of music or other activities such as graffiti, etc. The idea is to get along with these artists and co-create a new kind of content. This content will be created and made available in many languages—Hindi, English, Malayalam, Oriya, etc. Also, with digitisation, pay television is the way forward. This new channel which is a pay channel is a high-definition (HD) channel which will be available across the country soon.
Battiwalla: India has three passion points—cricket, cinema and music. While our association with the Indian Premier League (IPL) provides a strong link to the game of cricket, for a while we have been trying to find out what is the kind of music that we can tap into. Pepsi, globally has a strong association with music and we wanted to create a similar bond in India. Going by our new philosophy, as per which ‘Pepsi taps into restless youth’, which was launched last year, together with MTV we decided to tap into new forms of music, art and culture. Also, Pepsi as a brand has a huge presence across the country right from college campuses to offices, etc., and this initiative allows the brand to stay active all around the year.
How does the deal benefit both the parties—Pepsi and MTV?
Battiwalla: The deal with MTV goes beyond bringing money to the table to playing an active role. For instance, we mutually selected the genre in which we would like to launch the channel in addition to finalising the target group (TG). In fact, together we decided to empower a college band every month. We select one band, groom it and then shoot a video and put it on the channel. Also, we will be participating in various college festivals where we will take the Pepsi MTV Indies stage, which will thus give an opportunity to new talent to showcase their skills. This is a balanced deal which ensures good return on investments.
Swamy: This deal gives us a huge opportunity to engage with the youth, our core target audience in a new and better manner. Rather than trying to build up an audience base for the new channel, the partnership with Pepsi will give instant access to youth as brand Pepsi is present across the country. Then the brand also has a presence in sport through the IPL, so we will have access to those people as well. Apart from this, on Facebook, brand Pepsi has about 20 million followers and MTV too has 20 million followers, which in total makes 40 million people, to whom we will have direct reach.
The launch of the new channel coincides with the launch of Pepsi’s new logo which has been launched earlier in many international markets. Why did it take so long for Pepsi to implement the new logo in India?
Battiwalla: Pepsi at an international level has been working on a new visual identity. While the new look has been implemented in some countries, in India the new look has been introduced now. One of the reasons is that India is the first country to get its very own colour of blue. The colour blue that we own now and use in branding was created for India. Secondly, the transformation to the new look has been gradual. We took the first step last year, when we adopted the new international positioning, and changed our positioning to ‘Oh yes abhi’. The new look will be implemented gradually and will be seen during World Cup T20 and the IPL.
With the new deal what happens to ‘Coke Studio@MTV’?
Swamy: Coke Studio remains where it was—that is, it will be telecast on MTV, the parent channel. While for Coke Studio the idea was to create new music by bringing together well-known musicians and singers under one roof, in the new channel the focus will be to give a chance to new faces and promote them.
What kind of content can be expected from the new channel?
Swamy: Apart from promoting independent music, the channel will have various other elements. We will not get into regular episodic format; rather we will play around with the duration of the content. One of our popular shows, Sound Trippin, will be telecast on both the channels and another—MTV Roots—will be rebranded as Indie and will be shifted to the new channel.
Another segment the channel will telecast is Punk–Indiepedia, which will explain words that are known to the Indie community. Next, Open Files will be a show about album art, while Busking will showcase known popular artists who will play five songs on the streets of India. Among these artists are Raghu Dixit, Indus Creed, Shaa’ir and Func, who will stand on a regular street location and play five songs, and we will release one album in a month.
Additionally, instead of regular video jockeys (VJ), we will have stand-up comedians as hosts. Another segment will feature unusual work in the world of independent art such as street art, skateboarding, biking, etc. We are also trying to rope in various bands that can contribute to the content and hence spread the independent art culture. We are partnering with balconyTV (a bunch of artists playing from the balconies), Live from the console, Blue Frog, Indie Earth (for independent films), music labels from OML to Universal. The core idea is to expose people to different art forms.
In addition to Pepsi bringing in the money, how else do you plan to monetise the channel?
Swamy: The channel has four pillars – web, mobile, television and live events and we plan to utilise all the verticals. We have a stable business model right from the start with multiple revenue streams that we would be exploring, including advertising, subscription as it is a pay channel, live events and gigs, international distribution, consumer products and licensing, amongst others. In addition to this, we are also on the lookout for platinum partners—that is, a few key brands that we would like to partner and which would like to advertise on the new channel. We are
looking to partner brands that target the youth. For example, mobile handset brands or telecom service providers, lifestyle brands, etc.
What about the digital part of the business. How do you plan to leverage that?
Swamy: The website is responsive currently and has many elements in it. For example, it allows one to create his or her own playlist of songs. Then it has a big calender about events, which allows one to keep track of college fests and various gigs.
On the mobile front, a unique Indie music discovery app has been created which is accessible across all Android and iOS platforms. Concerts and festivals are a key part of the Pepsi MTV Indies footprint. Flagship channel MTV’s website has about 10 million visitors per month. Until the Indies’ website reaches that level of traffic, we are not thinking of monetising it. A website has to have a strong number of followers/visitors for it to be monetised. And once the new website crosses this target, then we will be able to monetise it in many ways. For example, through pay per view, licensing on content, downloads from websites, etc.
How does Pepsi plan to leverage the channel for IPL?
Battiwalla: There are many ways of utilising the association for IPL. We can take up many filler activities during the break as every stadium has a seating capacity of 20,000-45,000 people.
Then there is also the option of creating a fan park as the tourney has a huge fan following. We will weigh in various options, both in-stadia and out of stadium.