MTV Indies to be launched by the end of February

By Raushni Bhagia , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | February 06, 2014
The channel has got Ankur Tiwari, musician, song writer and film-maker, to head the music content for both the channels, MTV and MTV Indies.

MTV India has finally announced the launch of its much talked about channel, MTV Indies, which is partially sponsored by cola brand Pepsi. Called Pepsi MTV Indies, the channel also has four other sponsors which will be revealed closer to its launch. Expected to go on-air in the last week of February, the channel will focus on independent art where music will play a significant share.

Homi Battiwalla and Aditya Swamy at the launch of Pepsi MTV Indies

Led by music, Pepsi MTV Indies will also reflect other subcultures like independent films, art, comedy and all independent art, beyond mainstream. The channel will be launched in high definition and Dolby 5.1 surround sound and will be available across leading DTH and digital cable platforms.

Along with announcing the launch, Pepsi also unveiled its new product packaging with the global logo and visual identity.

"The launch of the channel coincides with the debut of Pepsi's global logo and visual identity system in India. Music is a key youth passion point and Pepsi's biggest platform globally. We are excited about partnering with MTV to launch this new platform, as we continue to set and fuel trends, creating a gateway to new experiences for our consumers," says Deepika Warrier, vice-president, Po1 Marketing, PepsiCo India.

The channel targets the urban youth up to 30 years of age. Does the launch imply that music content on MTV India will disappear?

Aditya Swamy, business head, MTV India denies it and says, "It's a bunch of all the shows on independent music that we were doing. Instead of doing a few on MTV, now we are launching a 100 per cent channel for it. MTV will have more mainstream music content and Indies will have more sub-culture music content."

Obviously, Coke Studio will not be shifted, due to sponsorship reasons, but MTV Roots will be rebranded as Indie and shifted to the new channel, along with Sound Trippin, which will be telecast on both the channels.

It is learnt that the channel doesn't want to get into the regular episodic format, but play around with variable duration content. Few segments that Pepsi MTV Indies will explore include Unusual Suspects, where unusual work in the world of independent art will be featured on a weekly basis, beginning with motorcycles in the first week, and moving on to street art (second week), visual projections (third week) and funky hat makers (fourth week).

Another segment, Punk - Indiepedia, will explain words that are known to the Indie community. Open Files will be about album art, while Busking will place known artists on the streets to play five songs; a few of these artists include Raghu Dixit, Indus Creed, Shaa'ir and Func, who will stand in a regular street location and play five songs, and the channel will release one album in a month.

Swamy adds that the channel is trying to include a lot of parties who can contribute to the content and hence spread the independent art culture. "We are partnering with balconyTV (bunch of artists playing from the balconies), Live from the console, Blue Frog, Indie Earth (for independent films), stand up comedians and music labels from OML to Universal. The aim is to help the art reach to those millions."

This is the first time a channel is been sponsored by a brand. While investment on the content front is low, the venture is high on the technology front (HD and Dolby sound). The channel apparently has a stable business model right from the start, with multiple revenue streams like subscription (since it's a pay channel), live events and gigs, international distribution, consumer products and licensing, amongst others.

Due to network synergies from Viacom18 (a 50:50 venture between Viacom and Network18), the additional costs of the channel are lower than other newly launched channels.

MTV Indies will be promoted on the Viacom 18 network starting February, 8. About on ground promotions, Swamy explains, "It generally takes about 60-100 days to settle the distribution. After that, we will start the outdoor. Meanwhile, we will partner with college fests and live events. We want it to be inclusive and spread it organically and through word of mouth."

Sudhanshu Vats

With some smart digital and localised media, the channel expects to get to a good point in 100 days. Youth is a huge segment, says Swamy and it can be sliced surely. "Indies is just one cut and there will be more I believe. Internationally, MTV has a lot of such channels."

The channel is also launching a music recognition app (similar to Shazam) that will also recognise independent music. The complete back-end for recognition of Indie music is being built. All the data and songs are being meta-tagged and the app will be up and running by the end of this month.

Explaining the rationale behind launching the channel, Sudhanshu Vats, group CEO of Viacom18, says, "At Viacom18, we believe in sharper segmentation whether it pertains to the genre, the audience or by markets. Indies is a move that further strengthens our bouquet of varied offerings. India is moving from a collective to an individualistic content consumption habit."

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