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Buoyed by viewership growth, MTV hikes ad rates by 35%

MUMBAI: Music and youth entertainment channel MTV India is tapping into newer audiences as 13 is the new 18, according to its latest research. Hence, the channel is also undergoing a lot of changes both on screen and behind it.

One of these initiatives is a hike in its ad rates by 35 per cent effective from July. This is in response to what the channel claims is a 50 per cent viewership growth in the first half of the calendar year.

The pop culture channel has been seeing growth in audience numbers at the rate of 8–10 per cent year on year. But 2014 started at a high, with MTV witnessing an increase in viewership from 10 million GVMs (gross viewership in millions) in January to 15 million GVMs in July in 15–24 HSM, as per data provided by the channel.

MTV India competes with channels like Bindass, UTV Stars and Zoom which also play a mix of music and content.

Aditya SwamyMTV India EVP and business head Aditya Swamy said, “Our increased investment in differentiated and insight-based content has seen a 50 per cent upswing in viewership in the last six months, taking MTV to an all-time high. With a brand new line-up of daily original content kicking off this week, we are expecting this number to only go up further. On the back of this, we are increasing our ad rates in line with an increase in viewership and will continue to be the most effective and impactful platform for advertisers to reach young India.

“We have strong relationships with clients across categories and we are committed to working as partners to deliver a strong ROI on a sustained basis,” he added.

MTV India is among the few channels in the youth and music space adhering to the ad cap regulation, due to which they have witnessed a 25 per cent inventory crunch. However, with a rise in ratings, MTV is now looking to take a 35 per cent jump in pricing, which Swamy believes is still lesser than their jump in viewership. However, it could offset the advertisers, given the market sentiments.

Giving a view on the current market condition, Maxus managing partner north and east region Navin Khemka said, “The increase in rates is more functional. But given that the market is soft right now, we are not sure if the pricing will go up as this is not the key season. However, the pricing depends on comparative environment. The channel is willing to increase, but whether the market will absorb is not certain. The advertisers might surely take the move with caution.”

Another senior media buyer, on condition of anonymity, stated that MTV is in a genre where there are 10 different channels and increasing ad rates will not be easy. “I don’t think the channel will be able to get that much hike in FCT [free commercial time] rates. The FCT is not completely sold anyway and if MTV decides to increase rates, I think more clients will find other channels. Having said that, the channel can charge premium on the original programming,” he opined.

Nonetheless, Swamy maintained that efforts are already on and the first few clients have agreed to the hike. “We believe that we would be an extremely efficient buy for advertisers who want to reach the youth and not just urban youth. We deliver well in LC1 markets, and 0.1 to 1 million markets. This growth in viewership is not fuelled only by metros.”

The ad hike is a build-up to the festive season, and with Diwali coming earlier in October this year, there is a momentum which Swamy hopes will help the second half of the calendar year shine.

Reason for growth in viewership

mtv roadiesMTV claims to have seen considerable growth in viewership since January 2014 when it began adopting a different format for its flagship shows ‘Roadies’ and ‘Splitsvilla’. As reported earlier by TelevisionPost.com, ‘Roadies’ dropped its vote-out format and positioned VJ Rannvijay as the face and Raghu as the support unlike previous seasons, while ‘Splitsvilla’, known for roping in unknown boy and girl contestants, got in male celebrity actors to tap deeper into smaller towns along with Sunny Leone as the co-host.

These changes in content were brought in keeping in mind the insights gleaned from the ‘Curious Minds’ study conducted by MTV where they spoke to over 11,000 young people across 40 cities in India. The study suggested that the youth today give higher importance to talent over petty politics and favouritism, thus inspiring the channel to adopt the tagline ‘Ride for Respect’ for their last season of ‘Roadies’. The same applied to ‘Splitsvilla’ where the concept of fairy-tale romance and finding true love stood out and became the theme of the show.

SplitsvillaIts other property ‘Webbed’, which came into its second season in March, took in audience feedback to make the show relevant for a slightly younger audience. Combining entertainment and education, ‘Webbed’ made socially relevant programming interesting and engaging for their viewers. In the second season, they also got in a female host in Kritika Kamra to connect with the audiences as opposed to a different celebrity hosting each episode in the first season.

The year of taking risks

2014 has been a year of taking risks, as Swamy puts it, and it doesn’t end there. A lot of changes in the channel and its philosophy have been unveiled. The focus is now on ‘Kill Boring’.

MTV India has got in two fiction formats in ‘Fanaah’ and ‘Yaariyaan’ for the first time, to add more value.

Swamy stated, “With significant investments in content, we will now have seven hours of original programming in a week. We always had weekend programming which we used in the day. But now, it will be one hour every day, 6–7 pm Monday to Friday and 7–8 pm on Saturday and Sunday, which will become our key slots.”

For ‘Yaariyaan’, the channel has got a title sponsor in Engage Deo and a powered-by sponsor in Delicca by Vini Cosmetics.

Monetising on that front, the channel will sell the fiction blocks at a different price to the advertisers. For its fiction block, there will be one hour of original airing in the evening and two hours of repeat in the afternoon, as well as a late evening slot. All of this will be sold at a different price.

“There is a RODP [rest of the day part] inventory that we sell, and now there is premium pricing for these shows. We already have a bunch of sponsors who are giving us a huge multiple of the RODP rate. So, there will be a 35 per cent hike in the RODP rate, followed by an incremental in the fiction block. Thus, the actual growth in ER [effective rate] will be more than 35 per cent,” he explained.

MTV WebbedHowever, this quarter will be a challenge in terms of revenues since there was no ad cap regulation in the same quarter last year. As a result, revenue will be down by 25 per cent while there will be an increase in costs.

In addition, MTV has opened up newer things to offer to the advertisers. For example, the channel has launched a new division called Connect, wherein content can be embedded into the environment to get the brand message out through graphics, unlike a product placement. It has also replaced its horizontal advertising aston bands with a special vertical aston band on the right side of the screen to lend a sense of differentiation and offer brands more visibility on the channel.

‘Stay Raw’ goes ‘Kill Boring’

MTV has also rolled out a brand new environment on screen which captures the core philosophy of Brand MTV which is now ‘Kill Boring’. It is a clutter-free environment with fun channel IDs and bright colours like blue, green, purple, pink.

Swamy stated, “One of the main philosophies behind our new channel look is that it reflects the mood of young India—happy, confident and global. We believe that keeping the viewer experience at the heart of the design philosophy will ensure higher time spent on the channel.”

Its new fiction shows add to the change. MTV India is now slowly drawing from its legacy which began with ‘Webbed’ drawing from ‘Catfish’ on MTV internationally, and has now moved to ‘Fanaah’ which has drawn from ‘Teen Wolf’.

“’Fanaah’ is a show unlike any other on Indian television, while the way we launched ‘Kaisi Yeh Yaariyan’ it made the show a musical and not a college show. Everyone is doing fiction. If we want to do fiction, it has to be a in a way that makes it stand out. MTV would never want to be seen as a trend-follower. We have always had only home-grown formats, but now we have a good mix of local and international,” said Swamy.

Over the past few months, the channel has also strengthened its relationship with the film fraternity through promotional shows like ‘Haunted Weekends’ with Sunny Leone and ‘Jhand Hogi Sabki’.

M for Music

To stay true to its music philosophy, MTV has also revamped its music blocks. It has launched a segment called ‘Star Ki Boli’ where actors talk about the music of their film rather than the story.

It also has ‘Roz Ka Dose’ which airs the top songs of each day. Every day has a unique theme, so it’s Romantic Wednesday, Dhinchak Saturday, Masala Monday and so on. The channel has also created an online character called Bollywood Jasoos who gives the inside scoop on what is happening in the film industry.

“Our music ratings have become strong as well. Morning music 7 am–12 pm is important for everyone, and we are the number one in that. Not only is our content doing well, but the music is too. So we have handpicked songs, and have strong relations with multiple labels, so it’s growing and lends itself to a lot of movie integrations,” Swamy explained.

Indie culture

Swamy stated that he wanted to do the changes earlier, but they needed another MTV to take on the music agenda and Pepsi MTV Indies provided just that.

“Till we had only MTV, we couldn’t expand this. When Indies launched, a lot of our non-film music programming could move out of MTV to Indies. This freed up a lot of place on MTV, and we thought of letting MTV be centred around pop culture while Pepsi MTV Indies focused on the subculture. Now we are clearly differentiating between the two. However, both these brands are connected by the common idea of ‘Kill Boring’,” he said.

With Indies getting more music from its elder sibling, properties like ‘Unplugged’ could move from MTV. ‘Soundtrippin’ too is in the ideation stage to explore a format different from just music. On the other hand, MTV India has a dedicated block for Indies which it plays as a weekly show.

Web and more

Last week, the MTV India website crossed 11 million visits, which, according to Swamy, came on the back of aggressive content push on the web. The team is now creating content specifically for digital and measuring the engagement level. Thus, it launched ‘Unmasked’, ‘Philips Bachelorpad’ and ‘Nano Drive’ exclusively for digital.

“A lot of content investment is happening on digital, which is truly driving our engagement on the second screen. A lot of clients also want more than TV, so we give them a mix of TV and digital. Our website recently clocked in over 11 million visits while we have over 30 million fans on Facebook. The next challenge for us is mobile. We have a dozen mobile apps and are now looking how we can collate them,” he said.