Although Punjabi singers have held their sway over Bollywood and the Hindi music genre for a long time, the Punjabi music channel genre was a difficult one to penetrate, being ruled by the cable network and local players for a long time. The first private national player to enter the market was a general entertainment channel, Zee Punjabi (then Alpha ETC Punjabi), in 2003. Later, PTC launched its general entertainment and news channels. On August 31, 2011, 9X Media launched its first regional offering, 9X Tashan, in the market. "We found it as an unexploited area and barged in," says Pawan Jailkhani, chief revenue officer, 9X Media.
9X Tashan was the network's first regional launch, after its flagship channel, 9XM, which was launched in 2007. Interestingly, instead of the popular video jockeys (VJs) or anchors, the channel chose to bring in animation at the time of its launch, a costlier and less-popular concept. Punit Pandey, EVP, new business, 9X Media Group, responds, "Animation cuts across all age groups and humour plus music is the best combination. Plus, at the time, animation was just entering through films and advertising."
9X Tashan's footprint extends to the PHCHP market (Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh). Currently the channel stands at an average of about 50 GRPs. Speaking on the challenges of this market, Pandey reveals, "It's a non film music market and there aren't many music labels. In that sense we had to actually build some content."
Haryanvi content was introduced about two months ago, and forms about 2 per cent of the content of the channel. Most of the content telecast on 9X Tashan is self made, and thus exclusive. Since Punjabi and Haryanvi are two dialects of the same language, there is an overlap in the audience base which works in its favour. Hindi music contributes to about 10 per cent of the total content.
The music genre does not see appointment viewing. However, with better programming between two songs, stickiness increases, says Pandey. The channel claims to be achieving 30 minutes of time spent per viewer.
Though 9X Media has extended its flagship characters Bade Chhote on to the channel, it has also maintained a local flavour. Ulloo Da Pattha and Bhabhi were there local characters. In line with the inclusion of Haryanvi music, the channel has consciously created characters such as Jatt and Jaat, a pair of a Punjabi and Haryanvi characters which give a flavour of youth oriented humour.
"They depict the lifestyle of the youth in PHCHP. Their jokes and talks revolve around the day-to-day life of the youth here," says Baljinder S Mahant, programming head, 9X Tashan.
The total advertising pie of the Punjabi television market is about Rs 135 crore. It is learnt that 9X Tashan claims close to 35 per cent of the share, though merely 10 per cent of the total revenues of the channel come from local advertisers.
"It is a P1 (priority 1) market for about 40-60 per cent of the national brands, including FMCG, auto, retail and telecom. There wasn't any stable platform for these brands to go into this market, prior to Tashan. With 9X Tashan settling itself in the market, things are simpler for the brands now," says Jailkhani.
Little surprise, then, that the channel has grown ad revenues in double digits during these past two years. After posting 40 per cent increase in its revenue in the second financial year (2012-13) over the year ended March, 2012, in the past five months, it has already clocked 68 per cent revenue growth.
Jailkhani adds, "Overall, 9X has seen a sharp increase in its viewership base post DAS I and II. Across the network, there's been 30 per cent increase in the effective ad-rates (ERs)."
According to market sources and media planners, the channel charges almost double the rates of other players in the market. As for the carriage fees and the ad-cap, Pandey suggests that the channel is already playing ads for about 12 minutes. "We are going to follow government and digitisation for turning paid. Whatever you do, most of the viewership will come from the top 10 towns; more population, more viewership. While there hasn't been any difference in the carriage fee, it will take some more time to realise the change."
Like its Hindi sibling 9XM, 9X Tashan has also relied heavily on on-ground properties to increase engagement. Tashan Nights is a quarterly property wherein the artistes perform and party with the audiences. These are sponsored events. "9XM activations are around Bollywood, while for 9X Tashan, activations are around artistes," says Pandey.
The network is also known for its brand integrations. Lux, Ponds, L'Oreal and Idea, amongst others, have already done brand integrations with 9X Tashan. Speaking on the low exposure on mass platforms, Pandey explains, "I would rather do college activation than a full page print ad. I would rather build merchandise than put up hoardings."