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Music channels search for new faces

By , agencyfaqs! | In | May 21, 2002
First it was STAR Plus with Coke [V]-Popstars. Now it's MTV checking out the kids!


This summer, the flavour in television programming is finding new faces to liven up channels. First, it was STAR Plus with Coke [V]-Popstars, a search for India's first girl band, which had a lot of new faces coming on the channel, only to be rejected, until the final five were selected. Viewers have been seeing them ever since. Regional channel etc Punjabi also clambered on the bandwagon with its own show - Pepsi Ban Ja Staara Yara.

However, the surprise came from the MTV stable - when, in an unprecedented move, Nickelodeon, MTV's sister channel, went to the kids. The Nickelodeon Chhota VJ Hunt sponsored by Nestle Munch kicked off its search on May 17, 2002, and will have auditions in Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi and Chennai. The contest is open to children below the age of 14 and closes on June 30.

After a gruelling search, in which overeager parents are sure to push their kids, the lucky winner of the Nickelodeon Chhota VJ Hunt will host 'Nick Masala' on Nickelodeon and the two-hour Nickelodeon block on Zee TV. MTV officials say that the strategy is an attempt by Nickelodeon to break out of the cartoon show mould with a variety of new shows - including game shows, live action and sitcoms. Says Alex Kuruvilla, managing director, Nickelodeon India, "Worldwide, Nickelodeon always puts kids first and brings them great kid-centric fun and the best of programming. We want kids to be involved, respected and listened to. Chhota VJ Hunt is just our first big initiative in that direction."

So what is behind this desperate search for new hosts? An equally desperate need to garner as much advertising - the major source of revenue for most channels - as possible, say analysts. And the task is really tough for the 70 to 80 channels that air on Indian television, but are not counted among the Top 10. No wonder. About 80 per cent of the Indian television advertising pie of Rs 3,600 crore is gobbled up by Star, Zee, Sony, Sun TV and DD. Music channels, which have only humble 1.5 per cent of viewership, have to be content with a lot less.

Not that the big channels are having a cakewalk. One indication of how tough the game of attracting viewers is is the way television channels have hiked their programming budgets. STAR Plus tripled its programming budget last year to Rs 1,800 crore. Zee has hiked content budget by 20 per cent, while Sony has gone on a buying spree, snapping up the rights to the Cricket World Cup, and several Subhash Ghai movies spending crores of rupees in the process.

But music channels have to surmount another problem, a problem beyond small viewership share. Very few watch them for long. For bored viewers, the music channel has been the one to zap when commercials interrupt their favourite teleserials or movies - not one to be watched continuously. "The need to gain stickiness has been our biggest problem. All these new shows, with their suspense, and serial-like format, are a big attempt to do this," admits a senior official in a top music channel.

This is what has led to the hyperactive marketing of all such shows. Coke [V]-Popstars, for example, could be what the channel claims "the most aggressively marketed programme in the country". STAR Plus and Indiatimes have pushed the show with a six-month long promotion blitz that has spanned all media - print, television, public relations and the Internet. Offline, the channels have concentrated on wooing the public, especially the young, with on-ground activities that included road shows, floats, banners, flyers and merchandise targeting places where the young like to hang out.

It seems there is more to come. "Hype around the band's name (Viva!) will be created in a similar fashion on air, in print, radio, Internet and on ground. All in all, a 360-degree marketing plan," reveals an official spokesperson of STAR Plus.

For the Chhota VJ hunt, MTV has embarked on a similar programme. The VJ Hunt will be supported by a national multimedia campaign with promo spots across Nickelodeon, MTV and Zee TV. On ground, Nickelodeon will be looking for Chhota VJs through road shows, audition parties, audition booths, and online on netfundu.com.

Getting corporate sponsorship is a key element in such marketing strategy. It has worked for Coke [V]-Popstars. "Since the concept is unique and is being done for the first time in India, the event was pre-sold to sponsors. Three months into the association, sponsors are very happy and satisfied with the mileage their brands have received," claims a spokesperson for STAR Plus.

The numbers say it all. Though it lags behind other music channels, CHannel [V] has been able to pull in viewers with Coke [V]-Popstars. Based on TAM report, for the 12 weeks beginning February 21 when it went on air, CHannel [V]'s share for SEC ABC, C&S audiences in the 15 to 24 age group have been quite impressive. For example, going by channel share during the 8.00 pm to 8.30 pm slot, for a nine-city average, CHannel [V] overtook MTV for nine out of the 11 weeks that Coke [V] Popstars has been on air.

CHannel [V] gained in the four cities of Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai. The peaks in share for each city have been: Mumbai 4.57 per cent [Episode 9, April 18]; Delhi 3.72 per cent [Episode 10, April 25]; Chennai 2.11 per cent [Episode 9, April 18]; and Bangalore, which recorded the highest percentage of channel share 19.82 per cent [Episode 3, March 7].

The increasing stickiness of such programmes has also seen average time spend on the channels go up. For instance, for Episode 3 of Coke [V]-Popstars, CHannel [V] saw 17 minutes as average time spent during the slot as compared to MTV's 6 minutes. Despite all this, going by TAM figures for the last 12 weeks, the overall share of music channels has hovered around the 2 per cent mark.

Hyping that up will be the biggest challenge. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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