Who watches music television in the age of music streaming services, digital OTT platforms, and everyone’s go-to music platform YouTube? You may well ask. But music television channels seem to be holding up surprisingly well in terms of viewership and ad spends generated.
Though music television channels account for about 6 percent of the total TV viewership they need to continuously hone their strategies to grow their viewership and remain competitive. Much of the viewership is generated by kids and youngsters and differentiated programming combined with innovative content which is crucial to increase viewership and engage targeted audiences.
The one overriding factor that drives music consumption in India is Bollywood, as also its regional counterparts. Another is the audience’s preference to watch the videos of songs rather than audio alone.
India has a very diverse demography and music channels’ necessarily have to be inclusive of that diversity in its programming and content. What works in urban and semi-urban areas will hardly work in a rural setting.
Some channels have experimented with youth-centric fiction and reality genres instead of restricting themselves to pureplay programming. Even independent music and artists have gained significant traction in the music television space in recent years. Though film music is what drives music consumption in India.
In our new series ‘What’s on Music Television?’ we take a look at the factors that are sustaining the music television channels in the midst of stiff competition from digital platforms. It has been created for all the music enthusiasts out there, to keep them updated on what is happening on music television and what is being programmed on a particular channel.
The first in the series features India’s pioneering music television channel Vh1. The channel was established in 2005 and is India’s only 24-hour International entertainment channel that provides viewers with their daily dose of international music, reality, fashion, Hollywood, pop culture, sports, and the celebrity lifestyle. It has been a trendsetter and continues to be among the top 10 of all music television channels in India.
Here we have Hashim D’Souza – Head of Programming, English Entertainment, Viacom18, discussing the programming strategies of the channel, viewership, catching up with the new trends of music streaming apps, their target audiences, and about independent artists and music.
1. How has the programming of Vh1 changed over the years?
Vh1 has always been the flag-bearer of International music and entertainment in India and we continue to bring the most trendsetting content to our viewers. We like to be ahead of the curve by introducing new sounds and artists to the Indian audience.
We launched Vh1 Hip Hop Hustle and also curated live Hip Hop events in 2006, long before the current boom in Hip Hop music. In 2017, we noticed an increase in the popularity of K-Pop amongst Indian viewers and Vh1 was the first to introduce a special segment called Vh1 K-Popp’d dedicated solely to K-Pop music. So, whether it’s about bringing new global trends to India or becoming trendsetters, Vh1 is your go-to place for everything music and pop culture.
2. What are your strategies for retaining the viewership of the channel?
Vh1 has been the no.1 English Music Channel for the longest time and we continue to witness a growing viewership base in metros and beyond. We maintain our position with our differentiated programming and new music blocks.
We have traversed beyond music and are becoming a music and pop culture destination by introducing differentiated programming with Entertainment Tonight, award ceremonies like Grammy’s, Europe Music Awards, Billboard Awards to only name a few, reality shows like Jersey Shore & Catfish and even sports like the Carabao Cup.
3. As the youth of the country are moving towards the web, what steps have you taken to make Vh1 youth-oriented?
Vh1 has always catered to the audience’s needs. Keeping up with the trends that India’s youth are following, we are constantly introducing new music genres and sounds along with clutter-breaking shows. Since hip hop is currently the sound that the youth are connecting with, we have introduced a special block called Vh1 Hip Hop Hustle: Swadesi that represents artists and songs across all languages in India.
We also have a request block called Vh1 Playlist, where viewers send us their requests and we play them on-air. And as mentioned before we are a music and pop culture destination and our differentiated programming ensures we have something for everyone, be it music, reality shows, or even sports.
4. Who is your target audience? And what do they listen to?
Vh1’s core audience is youth aged 13+ but our viewership is also strong in a younger 4+ TG as well. This is mainly because the younger kids listen to K-pop. Daily we receive several requests for pop songs and now a bit of hip-hop as well. And of course, K-pop has been a fan favourite for a while now and it only seems to be getting bigger.
5. Has internet penetration or platforms like YouTube affected the viewership of the channel? Has it made you change your strategy?
Internet platforms have not affected our viewership but have in fact only enhanced it. We have embraced the digital world and have created properties specifically for our audience like Vh1 Listen, Vh1 Playlist, and Vh1 Summer League. For World Music Day, Vh1 & MTV Beats did a 24-hour long live gig with over 40 artists across genres, in partnership with Facebook. This was a massive stunt for us and is something that has never been done before.
The internet has only helped us promote and spread the word about new launches and premieres. As mentioned previously, we have embraced the digital revolution and have created properties specifically for our audience. We have found that Vh1 has also become the source of discoverability for our viewers. Many times, they discover an artist or a song on Vh1 before moving to the digital world to source it. Our social media pages are used extensively to engage with our viewers. This has helped us improve our music curation to better suit their needs.
We use our expertise to carefully curate playlists for our audiences and give them what they want to listen to. We handpick the ‘must listen to’ songs among thousands that will connect with our viewers. This is an important reason why people still come to Vh1 over other platforms. As mentioned before, Vh1 is a key discovery platform for new artists and new music. We are also the exclusive broadcasters for award shows like Europe Music Awards, Video Music Awards, etc. in India.
6. How does Vh1 support independent artists?
Vh1 has always supported independent artists, even when there weren’t many other brands doing so. We also provide artists with a 360-degree campaign that not many others can offer. This is in addition to the network credibility which people find beneficial to associate with.
We have a team that is dedicated to discovering new trends, sounds, artists, and breaking them in India. Our team also works diligently to curate the perfect playlists across genres and moods. Our programming varies from specialised curation to breaking artists. We also create innovative campaigns and live events to engage with our viewers.
From the past year, artists that have been promoted extensively & garnered tremendous response are Emiway Bantai – Freeverse Feast, Divine – Chal Bombay, Madame Gandhi – Bad Habits, Sixk – Dansa, Dualist Inquiry – Life Forms.
7. What makes Vh1 one of the top music channels in the country, what makes it stand out?
For the last 15 years, Vh1 has continued to showcase and support music & artists that defy conventions and boundaries. We are a platform for the discovery of new music and new sounds.
Vh1’s programming also extends beyond music. We also have some path-breaking pop culture shows like Jersey Show, The X Factor to name a few. Vh1 has been constantly evolving over the years and we will continue to do so to fulfill our viewer’s needs.
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