Media's Hindi film music television channel, is a year old this month and it has reason to celebrate. According to TAM data, 9XM is a leader in its segment, with a channel share of 62 per cent, followed by MTV and Channel V - 16 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively. These figures are for Week 41 (C&S, 15+, 6 metros - Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bengaluru).
Within a mere three months of its launch last October, 9XM grabbed channel share of 53 per cent by January as compared to 17 per cent for MTV and 6 per cent for Music India during the same period.
Talking to afaqs!, Vikas Varma, head, music entertainment channels, INX Media, points out, "Prior to our stepping into the industry, the country did not have a music channel. Others in the field were offering mixed fare of reality, drama and fiction even while claiming to be music channels. Our focus was to position ourselves as a music channel that offered unadulterated Bollywood music and fill that void."
Interestingly, Varma says 9XM gathered steam on the strength of its programming and look. He lists the programming rules it set out for itself initially and which it is still following. Complete Bollywood songs would be played. A minimum of 10-12 songs would be played in an hour, with ads making up another 12 minutes per hour of programming. Instead of VJs, it would use animated characters such as Bheegi Billi, Bade and Chote and Beetles.
Divya Radhakrishnan, president, TME, says, "The format of songs back to back, full songs and doing away with VJ banter are the biggest factors that have contributed to the popularity of 9XM."
Gowthaman Ragothaman, leader, Mindshare, South Asia, seconds the view that 9XM's unique format and clutter free, exciting look, supported by animated characters and fewer advertising breaks, has enabled it to dominate the music entertainment space.
He explains, "A music channel is consumed predominantly by youth and the dynamics guiding the viewing habits for a music channel will be different from, say, a GEC (general entertainment channel). So, one must remember that experimenting with the format and structure of shows is much easier for a music channel. In that sense, 9XM has succeeded in its experiment."
9XM sports a vibrant look, with its logo lending it distinction - the logo jumps and dances and changes colour while songs are being played.The titles introducing the songs use movie logos instead of plain fonts. To make viewing an interactive exercise, the channel frame has a ticker at the base, flashing jokes, contests, SMSes and downloads. The frame also has parallel storyboards running along with the songs, in which the animated characters perform funny acts and pass amusing comments.
Reportedly, INX Media took the view that being a property targeted at the youth, 9XM did not need to indulge in advertising or PR. This belief was founded on the idea that by and large, the youth hates being preached to. The channel heads were convinced that telling youngsters what to watch would amount to preaching.
Radhakrishnan says that though music channels are skewed towards the youth, they do have a potential audience in anyone who appreciates good Bollywood music. She points out that 9XM is the only platform offering true blue Hindi film music, which has worked in its favour.
However, she says that as each genre has a reason for its existence, 9XM could have passed the victory post much faster if it had conducted a good advertising and marketing exercise. She offers the example of Colors, which backed its strong programming with an aggressive marketing drive and has emerged triumphant on sheer word of mouth publicity.