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Beyond music and TV.

Summary: MTV converts its "viewers" into "users" by transforming its programming and, therefore, its business model.

When MTV, a US cable TV network, was launched in 1981, it did for video-based music what Woodstock did for music festivals in 1969-each captured the imagination of audiences (albeit of a totally different kind). Mark Knopfler, the frontman of British rock band Dire Straits, wrote what inadvertently became the biggest promo for MTV when he sang "I want my MTV" in the song Money for Nothing in the mid-80s in a then-groundbreaking computergenerated music video.

By 1996, MTV, with its over-the-top videos and video jockeys (VJs) was on Indian television. Over the years, it gradually localised its content to include more India-based programmes. Since then, however, much has changed. Today, MTV India isn't just about back-to-back music videos; 70 per cent of its content is non-music, ranging from relationships to fashion to sports to campus. But even more radical shift is the one beyond TV itself, which is reflected in the multiple revenue streams that have opened up over the years. In 1996, all of its India revenues were coming from sale of airtime. Today, that's down to a little over half, with brand solutions, content distribution and syndication, digital solutions for third-party brands, consumer products licensing and merchandising and talent management being some of the new activities that bring home the rest of the bacon.

The upshot? MTV, today, isn't just about music and isn't just a channel any more-it's a youth brand. The brand's mantra today is, "It's my MTV", an indicator of how the company is attempting to reach out to consumers via interactive platforms like the mobile and the web. While most TV broadcasters treat viewers as "consumers", MTV wants to treat them as "users". That's because the channel feels that the "viewer" is dying, while the "user" is the newage breed that is not just consuming TV, but is also mobile and online. Result? "Music Television", the two words that ran below its logo, were dropped in October 2009, thereby completing the makeover that began two years ago.

Says Haresh Chawla, Group CEO, Viacom18 Media, a joint venture between the US-based Viacom Inc. and Network18, which has, besides MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1, Colors and Studio 18 in its stable: "We have been continuously evolving our offerings to the audience to make the brand relevant beyond music and TV. Five years from now, we see (the emergence of) "MTV Everywhere" - across all screens and product categories that youth engage in, as well as platforms." Media Partners Asia, the Hong Kong-based media research firm, estimates that MTV, Nickelodeon and VH1 will generate Rs 160 crore in revenues in the current fiscal, with MTV accounting for more than 60 per cent of this. MTV makes up for roughly 20 per cent of Viacom18's top line. Its operating margin is estimated at 20 per cent.

REDEFINING YOUTH TELEVISION MTV has topped the youth GEC space with its channel share in the last four weeks of 2009 averaging 17.3 per cent.

*****MTV*****9XM*****Bindass*****Zoom*****B4U music *****Channel V *****Music India

JUNE '09*****18.1*****18.5*****11.3*****11.8*****7.7*****7.7*****7.5

JULY '09 *****15.8*****16.5*****14.9*****12*****8.7*****9.1*****6.3

AUG. '09*****18.1*****17.3*****13.6*****11.9*****7.6*****8.8*****7.5

SEPT. '09*****16.8*****17*****15.4*****12.3*****8.7*****7.9*****6.8

OCT. '09*****17.9*****16.6*****16.1*****13.2*****8.2*****7.3*****5.5

NOV. '09*****15.3*****16.5*****15.5*****13.6*****11.2*****7*****6.9

DEC. '09*****17.3*****16.4*****14.2*****11.6*****12.8*****7.3*****6.3

TG: CS 15+yrs. Market: Hindi speaking. All figures in per cent. Source: TAM Peoplemeter System

The core, though, will always be TV, where MTV is on its way to becoming a youth general entertainment channel (GEC). But music on the channel will reduce even further, to around a quarter of total content, says Ashish Patil, GM, MTV India, and Senior VP (Creative and Content). "MTV is born of music, inspired by music, driven by music, but not limited by music. Today, 14 per cent of GEC programming is music-oriented and that is eating into the share of music channels. So, there is a need to expand both for revenues sake as well as from a programming perspective," adds Patil. The treatment of music could also be different, as Rock On, a recent reality show on the making of a band, revealed.

Such a positioning has helped MTV emerge a leader in the youth GEC space, although the likes of Bindass (from the UTV stable) and Zoom aren't far behind (see Redefining Youth Television). Increasingly, however, channel share and TV rating points won't be the only indicators of MTV India's performance, what with its scope of operations widening to include Viacom Brand Solutions (VBS) and consumer products. VBS delivers customised marketing solutions for brands, making it an ad agency of sorts that makes TV commercials.

"Everybody wants a piece of MTV. Clients today are not seeing us as a broadcaster where they can just run their 10-second spot commercials, but are looking to derive some value out of us," says Aditya Swamy, Senior VP, MTV/VH1 and VBS, which, today, has some 70 brands on board. The consumer products include Nickelodeon's merchandise-board games, puzzles, toys, apparel and footwear. But there's plenty more, thanks to a string of alliances. For instance, there's the MTV Eyewear with Aureole Inspecs, MTV Citibank credit and debt cards, MTV Backpack Holidays (with travel portal Travelguru). Recently, it launched MTV music phones in association with handset manufacturer MicroMax.

In addition, MTV has its brand name on merchandise that stretches from towels and bed linen to stationery. "What started as an experiment in 2003 is today a serious business for the company," explains Sandeep Dahiya, VP (Consumer Products and Communications), Viacom 18.

The possibilities seem endless. Consider what it can do-and is doing-with its veritable factory of content: MTV's Digital Music Store will be launched to offer paid downloads of Hindi and international music from 15,000 songs available. "I want my MTV" still rings true - but today, the Indian company's brass would want millions of youth to "want" not just the music videos, but the loads of other goodies on offer, too.

Reproduced From Business Today. Copyright 2010. LMIL. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Business Today More (New Delhi, India)
Date:Feb 20, 2010
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