Viacom 18’s Anshul Ailawadi: ‘We are investing in music production’

Recently, Viacom 18’s Youth, Music and English Entertainment (YME) cluster comprising MTV, MTV Beats, Comedy Central, Colors Infinity and Vh1 unveiled its content plans for FY22-23. 

In addition to a new slate of content, Viacom 18’s new Fully Faltoo NFT platform will launch its maiden short-form video offering Fully Faltoo, with over a dozen new web shows. There’s also KaanPhod, a brand-new business division to provide emerging musical artistes with an opportunity to showcase their talent. Plus, MTV Hustle 2.0 continues to find India’s next big rap sensation.

Anshul Ailawadi

Music Plus had a chat with Anshul Ailawadi, Head – Youth, Music and English Entertainment, Viacom18 about the cluster’s plans to tap into India’s musical talent. Excerpts from an interview.

Congratulations on the steady growth of the cluster. Could you tell us about the impetus for a TV channel to go the short format route with Fully Faltoo?

We realised that audience touchpoints are fragmented substantially. People are now consuming 30 second content, 3-minute content, 8-minute content, 30-minute content and even one hour of content.

Interestingly, it is not different content, it could be the same content done in different forms and different aspects.We decided to start creating new monetisation across different avenues, through short form video or through clips that we can give out. This is also our way of getting into the creator economy of the next generation of content creators.

We have always been the guys who discovered new faces. It’s just that now that discovery is on multiple platforms. We wanted to double down our Fully Faltoo franchise, so we decided on making some fun and quirky short video format content. Fully Faltoo will see great bunch of faces, many well established, many who are new, but definitely most who haven’t necessarily worked with us already. It will offer fun snackable content that you can watch anytime.

How will Fully Faltoo will be connected to the NFT marketplace, that’s also of the same name?  

The short format offering Fully Faltoo is different compared to the NFT marketplace Fully Faltoo. While MTV is a media brand, for us, the way we look at ourselves is based on our bond with our audiences. We have to be present in whatever touchpoints are audiences are at. So we saw the NFT space growing very rapidly. We felt that there was an opportunity for people to own a piece of our legacy.

With this thinking, we entered into the NFT space. We have more collectibles that are scheduled to drop very shortly. There are yet a lot of aspects about NFTs that haven’t been explored in a big way. We want to look at the utility each NFT can give to our audience and provide them with different formats. We will look at doing all of this in the next six to nine months. Within 36 hours we sold 3,000 pieces and eventually sold the 13 rare collectibles too. We received a very promising response. This is our attempt to make our legacy artworks and creative assets available for enthusiasts and people who are interested in this space.

Talk to us about KaanPhod. In addition to promoting new talent with a show, what are the other features that will set this platform apart from other initiatives that offer reality content?

Earlier, people would know about the song and the musician, once the music video featured on MTV. Today, there are various different platforms to stream songs and music videos and the consumption has also increased on streaming and social platforms. We had our ears to the ground and a lot of feedback that we got was about people coming to us and asking us to review their music.

We felt that some of the music was really cool and with a little hand holding could go a long way. Therefore, we decided to design an offering, KaanPhod, where in emerging artists come up with a song. With KaanPhod, we are investing in music production, to co-own the IP of the song and co-monetise the rights of the song. Thereafter, make it available on social media, streaming platforms, and other TV assets. It is good for us from a business perspective as well as community perspective. We’re doing what we think we know best.

It’s been reported that short format content could overtake traditional forms of long form content. Could this be a reality for India and why does TV work so well here?

While monitoring our target audiences, we realised that consumers have started consuming various types of content no matter the duration. And short forms of content are no different, they are the same content in different formats and aspects. In the past few years, consumers have been introduced to various different formats of content on different mediums. Even though television is still known as the strongest medium of consuming content, digital media and other formats of content are also growing in India.

For us, Fully Faltoo is an attempt to narrate stories which are of 30 seconds, 3 minutes, or 8 minutes, which will be fun and only digital content. The content will be available across our video platforms, be it YouTube, Facebook, Voot or Jio.

At a time when most are focusing on the monetisation of regional content, what is Viacom 18’s vision with English content?

We acquired new content for our English GECs after conducting extensive research into what works and what do people desire. We looked at what is the need that an English entertainment television channel fills. Two things emerged- First, there is a need for curation. At the end of the day, OTT platforms can lead you down a rabbit hole, and consumers can get lost. So, for us, the curation proposition is compelling, which is why we’ve acquired content that we believe is relevant.

The second piece is that we have the world’s largest English-speaking population, and limiting that consumer requirement to only one platform makes no sense. Of course, there have been headwinds that the business is in a tight spot, which is very obvious, and therefore, the business model must be corrected. The consumer’s need does not change.

Will there be emphasis on English content with Fully Faltoo and KaanPhod?

We have been the first ones to give creators a voice. We will dial up our existing properties and also leverage our creator-friendly propositions Fully Faltoo and KaanPhod. KaanPhod will begin with 10 music videos, 10 artistes and 25 original music tracks. We will further amp it up.

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