Alokananda Chakraborty

B4U completes two years

The channel changes its programming and its look to be in tune with the times

B4U Music completes two years, and starting May 6, has gone in for a new look.

When the channel debuted on Indian television in May 2000, it hit upon a strategy that, with the benefit of hindsight, seems startlingly obvious. Make Bollywood music the chief driver. It was a strategy that has paid off.

By September 2000, with its 80 per cent to 20 per cent Hindi to English ratio, the channel had overtaken main rivals MTV and CHannel [V]. According to TAM figures for the period May 2000 to September 2000, the channel cornered 40 per cent viewership compared with MTV's 24 per cent and CHannel [V]'s 7 per cent. Since then, the channel claims to have grown by 13 per cent strengthening its reach from 45 per cent in 2000-2001 to 52 per cent in 2001-2002.

At the heart of it programming and marketing strategy was a correct reading of the Indian market. And its success changed the rules of music channel marketing in India. Since the debut of B4U Music, a predominance of Hindi music programming has been the hallmark of other Indian music channels.

With hindsight, the idea that Indians would prefer Indian to international music seems a tad obvious. One indicator is the sales in music shops. An average music retailer will tell you that of the music he sells, 80 per cent is Bollywood songs, 7 per cent is Hindi pop, and the remaining 13 per cent is split between spirituals and English music. "The channel was able to grasp the central fact that in India, many people prefer the homemade to the foreign. That has been crucial to its success," says a senior media planner based in Mumbai.

Right now, the channel brass is busy repositioning B4U. To begin with, the channel now has a 65 per cent to 35 per cent Hindi to English break up. So why is the channel changing a strategy that has stood it in good stead in the past? " It is just that we have become more contemporary," says Rajnish Lall, chief marketing officer, B4U Music.

B4U, for all its success, is not seen as a "young" channel in the way MTV, for example, is regarded. Talking about its new focus, Lall reiterates B4U always targeted the attitudinally young, even if they were older in terms of age. "We were never targeting the youth consciously, but we were targeting the attitudinally young. Our appeal to everyone led to the misperception that we were appealing to an older audience," he explains.

One look at its programming line-up explains how. Among its top programme is FIR, a spoof on actors' off-screen lives; Bizzare, a look at the crazy stuff people did to get noticed; Sound of Music which promoted one particular genre of music for one month; Making Movies which looked at film making; and Purple, a capsulation of society, lifestyle and fashion. The result? The channel's programmes began attracting a broader audience profile.

Anyway, it is a misconception that the channel is consciously trying to remove. The new programming is certainly geared towards the youth, and follows research that the channel conducted at the three-day IIT Mumbai annual festival Mood I (Mood Indigo) last December. The reason to take Mood I as the starting point is that the festival attracts around 40,000 young people from all over the country. The channel conducted one-to-one interviews with around a thousand young people, and the findings were incorporated in the new programming of the channel.

And the new programming strategy - a series of promos and programmes heavily geared toward the young - came into effect on May 6. Sample this. Eye Catchers will profile upcoming models; Fad focuses on the Generation Y; and Night Prowl will have the channel's VJs visiting the city's nightspots. The channel also plans to launch a Model Hunt.

Alongside the channel sports a new look - with a predominance of warmer hues, such as yellow, red, and green, in opposition to the pastel shades earlier. The new look also has many elements of web design, promotions that are likely to appeal young people, such as a sports pool game with the balls bouncing around.

Any change is important because this is a genre where competition is intense. The genre of music channels in India, remains in the genre of the "flip" channels. Indian viewers, who have a choice of general entertainment, news, movies, and serious programming from channels like Discovery, at a low Rs 100 to Rs 200 per month, often visit music channels only for momentary diversion, though some channels like MTV have been able to built a loyal audience following. Lall describes music channels, as "chill-out-for-a-couple-of-minutes" channels.

This is reflected in the channel statistics too. For example, against a cumulative channel share of over 40 per cent achieved by the three mainstream channels (STAR, Zee and Sony) during prime time, the Top 4 music channels put together manage just about a 1.5 per cent share. Music channel programmes also depend a lot on the popularity of the VJ and the theme. Ratings jump accordingly. This means constant innovation - like VJ Hunts or forming music bands etc - anything that requires viewer participation.

It is unlikely that this will change anytime soon. The next two years will perhaps reveal whether the audience wants that. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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