The mood is distinctly upbeat at SS Music (Southern Spice Music), the south-based music channel promoted by Fortune Media Private Ltd. For the first time since its launch in April 2001, the channel has overtaken MTV, in terms of channel share, in the city of Chennai. As per TAM figures, the channel has notched up a share of 0.33 per cent in Chennai - against the 0.26-per cent share of MTV, and the 0.24-per cent share of CHannel [V]. In fact, the channel share figures for SS Music have hovered in that region for the entire period between December 22, 2002, and January 18, 2003, debunking the possibility of it being a mere flash in the pan.
"We positioned ourselves as a slick, multi-lingual southern music channel, and music apart, we have managed to tap into the youth culture by diving right into city life and colleges," says Bryan Oliver Peppin, head of programming & production, Fortune Media. "This worked and we have overtaken both MTV and CHannel [V] in Chennai. In creative terms, MTV has been our internal benchmark. We are to the south, what these channels have meant to a non-southern audience."
What has certainly worked for SS Music, at least in Chennai, is the accent on localized music - an area that MTV and [V] cannot even pretend to cater to. However, this cannot take away from the fact that snazzy packaging - hip veejays with metro-fitted attitudes - has helped the channel draw audiences away from its bigger rivals.
But the battle for the southern market is far from over. In Cochin, for instance, SS Music continues to tail the leader, MTV. While in metros such as Bangalore and Hyderabad, the channel is still yo-yoing between No. 2 and No 3. Peppin, of course, likes to see this as a clear challenge from SS Music. But Chennai is a good beginning.
Not everyone is impressed, however. An executive with a lead channel in Chennai has this to say: "What is a TVR of 0.06, when even a lowly-rated programme on a leading channel easily gets a TVR of 8? There has to be some sort of a reality check before one gets carried away by the mere fact that SS Music has overtaken MTV in Chennai." SS Music, for its part, sees its achievement as "creditable" as "a share of 1 per cent is seen as 'good' for music channels, and if a music channel reaches a TVR of 0.6, it is considered acceptable by planners".
Even assuming a TVR of 0.6 is good for a music channel, the fact remains that SS Music has dethroned MTV only in Chennai. MTV still rules over most of south India. "It is true that SS has overtaken MTV in Chennai, but it is yet to establish supremacy in the south," opines B Satish, investment manager, WPP MCI, Chennai. "Hence, this channel makes sense for clients who specially want a music channel only for Chennai. But if you need to cover the entire south and national, we would have to take in MTV." He adds that a lot would also depend on rates. "If the rates are low enough, it can work as an add-on for a client looking at music channels."
Competitive pricing is one thing that SS Music is not likely to overlook. In fact, the channel has pegged itself rather attractively at Rs 350 for a 10-second slot. Which is much lower compared to what an MTV or a [V] offers - the former is priced in the region of Rs 1,000 (for 10 seconds), while the latter is at around Rs 600. "We are willing go lower on rates for big clients on a trial basis," Peppin offers. The channel has had some success with big-ticket clients. In the past, it had Nestle, and it has just signed up with Cadbury India. Other national-level advertisers include McDowell's, Colgate, Anchor and Top Ramen, and the channel hopes to bag one of the soft drink majors in the near future.
Interestingly, at the time of its launch, the channel was seen as a one that would build its revenue on lottery shows. Had that been the case, the channel would have been in dire straits today, considering it was only last month that the State of Tamil Nadu announced a total ban on lottery trade. According to observers, the channel was fortunate as the element of music - which started off as a supplement to support the primary lottery trade - was easily converted into its mainstay offering.
The channel, of course, strongly denies that it was conceived to fit another role. "We were never totally dependent on lottery sale, though it did pay us, like any other advertising client would," Peppin insists. But the fact remains that Fortune Media is a company floated by the Martin Lottery Agencies Ltd, one of the largest bulk distributors of lotteries in the country.
Whatever be the reasons for its genesis, today SS Music is bullish on music. And to establish itself in its chosen niche, the channel is planning a slew of interactive programmes and roadshows, post-April 2003, when it would celebrate its second anniversary. "We are close to achieving our breakeven, which we should do by April," Peppin informs. "What has come in the way is the World Cup, as most media planners have tied their plans to it. We currently have an ad revenue of Rs 60 lakh, and hope to touch an ad revenue of around Rs 80 lakh to break even by April this year." © 2003 agencyfaqs!