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2013: Music channels hunt for the right formula

MUMBAI: Amid growing commodification, music channels tinkered with innovations in packaging and adopted a second-screen strategy in 2013 to beat the monotony. Some even went so far as to depend on non-music content for revenue growth.

The biggest relief in the year, however, was when the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI’s) 12-minute ad cap regulation could not be implemented, due to first the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) and then the Delhi High Court. The threat, however, is far from gone—the High Court is set to resume hearing the case in March.

Trends in 2013

The music genre grew by 10–15 per cent across all markets, with a 4.7 per cent share in CS 4+ Hindi-speaking markets (HSM) and a 7.2 per cent share in CS 15–24 ABC. A major growth factor was programming and innovations in channel packaging that helped to rope in a whole new segment of youth audiences to the TV screens.

Packaging of music

2013 changed the way music was being distributed to audiences across channels. Earlier, treated only as a commodity, music gained perspective this year. Instead of just plain back-to-back music offerings, channels invested a lot in innovative properties. Some of them included Sony Mix’s ‘Mix Solos’, ‘Mix Voices’ and ‘TV Ka Pehla Radio Show’, MTV’s ‘Unplugged’ and ‘Coke Studio’, 9XM’s specially created music video ‘Tung Tucking Ting’, Mastiii’s ‘Golden Era with Annu Kapoor’, MTunes’ ‘MOriginals’ and ‘Off The Record’.

For channels like MTV, Mix and Mastiii which have specific shows in various time bands during the day, these shows added to the line-up and gave them an advantage of showcasing content. This helped to arrest the attention of the youth audience who were looking for more in terms of music consumption.

anita-vermaSays Mastiii programming head Anita Verma, “There were not many players in the music category and it was by default considered a youth platform. Mastiii widened the audience base by appropriate mood mapping and bringing in retro music which always had an untapped demand in the market. We brought in shows like ‘Golden Era’ which also included trivia.”

On the other hand, for pure play channels like 9XM and MTunes, small segments acted as fillers between songs throughout the day.  Apart from that, collaborative videos and songs were created for occasions like the Republic Day.

MTunes and 9XM started the trend of a cappella versions of popular Bollywood songs. This new formula for creating a unique rendition of songs slowly gained in popularity and emerged as a major component in the offerings of these channels.

neeraj vyas9X Media EVP and new business head Punit Pandey says, “The consumption of music by youth has been constantly growing year on year. When more than 55 per cent of the country’s population comprise youth, the consumption of music will also grow in the same manner. Thus, we as music broadcasters constantly provide differentiated forms of music.”

In the midst of all this, MTV adopted a novel concept. The youth channel redefined music through shows like ‘Coke Studio’, ‘Soundtrippin’ and ‘Unplugged’.

Aditya Swamy“MTV’s acquired content comprises less than 50 per cent, while original music content created by the channel is roughly around 20–30 per cent. Around 25 per cent is non-music content. We are very heavily building on music properties now,” MTV India EVP and business head Aditya Swamy had revealed to TelevisionPost.com in an earlier interaction.

Moreover, even the trend of narrating the story behind a song, as in Mastiii’s ‘Golden Era’, became an interesting concept as it intrigued audiences irrespective of age. The show revived the art of storytelling which became popular and then transcended to radio.

Second phase of digitisation

The second phase of digitisation worked magic for music channels in 2013. It opened up shelf space for channels like Sony Mix which was not present earlier. The trend helped channels to increase reach and penetration in untapped markets and was among the largest factors driving growth this year.

The 150-GRP genre, thus, grew by 10–15 per cent as individual music channels like Sony Mix saw a growth of 30 per cent, while 9XM grew to the tune of 15 per cent. Mastiii occupied a channel share of 16 per cent within the music space.

According to Sony Mix’ Vyas, “The second phase opened up a lot of shelf space for music channels, so smaller channels performed well this year. It could be termed as the single largest gainer for music channels in 2013. We started performing across all markets.”

Pandey adds that digitisation helped viewers bookmark their favourite channels, as more space meant a larger number of channels available to the viewers.

Second screen adoption and on-ground momentum

2013 saw consumption of music rise among the youth. The 15–24-year-olds were forming a new audience that was becoming important for music broadcasters to tap into. Although music piracy eats into online consumption, channels had to adopt digital trends to widen its base.

Special videos for digital and social media platforms formed largely general trend. 9XM went further by promoting its animated characters on the platform while MTV adopted the platform for its properties.

On-ground activities also gained some momentum this year. Thanks to the great number of live concerts, music consumption on the on-ground platform grew. Although none of the channels aired any of these concerts, promotion of the artists was an aspect they tried to capture this year.

The second-screen adoption did not gain much steam in 2013.

Varma says, “Unlike earlier times, each channel in the music space now has a distinct personality of its own. Every player is either clearly targeting at age groups or markets to stand out distinctly within the genre.”

Rise in regional music consumption

9XM, the only Hindi music broadcaster having regional music channels as part of its network, witnessed a rise of 15–20 per cent in the consumption of Punjabi, Marathi and Bengali music. It believes that music in the South too grew at the same level and has the potential to be a major game changer in the coming year.

The ghost of ad cap

Music channels are heavily dependent on revenue from ads. In fact, with most of them being free-to-air channels, the ad cap regulation would hit them hard and even kill some of them.

Vyas, however, believes that this could be a blessing in disguise. “The music genre was getting commodified as some channels were playing 25 minutes of advertisements. This has to stop somewhere. The genre has been undersold and this is an opportunity for music broadcasters to hike their rates,” he says.

Music channels, therefore, will have to rework their strategies and reconsider their business plans for the future.

Well into 2014, the third and fourth phases of digitisation could help the music broadcasters in increasing penetration into smaller markets at lower carriage costs. The broader issues, however, remain: low revenue growth, too many channels and an imminent ad cap regulation.

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