Benita Chacko

Have television music channels recovered from the pandemic?

Industry stakeholders raise concerns of ad rates not being commensurate to the viewership the channels garner.

As for most television channels, the pandemic-induced lockdown was a tough period for music channels as well. The decline in ad revenues and the dearth of fresh content took a toll on music channels. With lockdowns being lifted and the economy reviving, most television channels have got back on track.

However, music channels in India are largely dependent on Bollywood film music for its content. But with not many films releasing during the lockdown, these channels had very little fresh content to play. It was only at the end of 2021, when Bollywood films returned to the theatres, did these channels see a surge in content.

Kailash Adhikari
Kailash Adhikari

Kailash Adhikari, business head, TV Vision, which owns Mastii, the leading Hindi music channel for a few years now, says the genre has recovered up to 92% of its pre-pandemic levels. “The gap of eight per cent is due to the dearth of movie promos. We would get close to one hour of daily advertising from them. Though movies are coming back, there are very few Bollywood movies that are doing well. That dampens the spirit of the producers to advertise,” he says.

He mentions that during the lockdowns in 2020-21, the revenues across the genre had gone down upto 80%. The recovery only began in August 2021, when lockdowns started opening up.

The music genre on television is watched across age groups and brings in a diverse audience for the network. Mastiii has viewers across 15 to 60 years. 9X Media has a younger audience that largely live in nuclear families. Typically brands that want to reach a mass audience advertise on music channels.

Have television music channels recovered from the pandemic?

Kavita Sagar, head- revenue (broadcast), IN10 Media Network, says the ad volumes of the music genre saw an estimated 40% growth in 2021 compared to 2020. “The genre has witnessed a steady growth with categories like food and beverages, personal care, e-comm, and FMCG reaching out to their consumers using the genre as a reach and frequency builder for the HSM markets,” she says.

Gurjot Shah Singh
Gurjot Shah Singh

However Gurjot Shah Singh, executive vice president (EVP), media, Isobar, is clear that there is no recovery for music channels post-pandemic. “While the lockdown was temporary the habits we developed seem to be permanent and continue to impact the usage of music channels. Content and music consumption peaked during the lockdown and everyone wanted it to be personalised which lead to the rise in OTT and music apps. During the lockdown spiritual songs, Zumba music, and Party numbers were all getting played simultaneously under the same roof, but on digital devices and not on TV,” he says.

Music Channels or Streaming Services?

From over 70 music channels in 2005, India is now down to about 50. The increasing emergence of digital music streaming platforms like Gaana, Saavn, Spotify has drawn viewers away from the television channels. Many of them shut down in the last decade, including Channel V, Sony Mix, etc. Among those who have survived, some had to adopt a change in its content strategy and evolve into a youth and entertainment channel. This includes the likes of Zing, Zoom and MTV that have more of long-format content like reality shows and less of music.

Clyde D'Souza
Clyde D'Souza

Clyde D’Souza, vice president-programming and strategy, ShowBox, says television and streaming platforms work in tandem and the latter only aid to increase the appetite.

“TV provides a lazy and convenient manner to consume music. We do all the heavy lifting for them like providing them the hit songs. The discovery happens on television and then they can search for the songs on the streaming apps,” he says.

But for the millennials, much of their music discovery happens through reels on short video apps like Instagram, Moj, Sharechat, etc.

However Adhikari is optimistic about the future. “The future of media will be TV plus digital. There is no doubt that digital will grow exponentially. But at the same time television is integral to India as a market. I don't feel the obituary of television should be written so soon,” he says.

Ad rates not comparable to viewership

Meanwhile he raises an important concern - the ad rates are not comparable to the eyeballs they garner.

“In some categories our viewership is higher than the number one Hindi news channel of the country, but the ad rates would not be even 25 per cent of it. While we, on our level, are trying to change the advertisers’ perception, the industry needs to fight together for better ad rates. Its a long journey,” he adds.

Singh says that though the viewership for these channels maybe high, the viewers are only passively watching the television. That is, the television is playing in the background but different family members are consuming content on their separate personal devices.

“The television is being played in the house but it is only a passive entertainment device. The viewership maybe high because the television is on, but advertisers are not willing to pay in as high a proportion as the viewership, as it not being actively consumed,” he explains.

Reign of Regional Content

Singh says regional music channels continue to thrive.

“Even on YouTube many regional music channels have come up. Yet people in the deeper pockets of the country remain loyal to television channels. They offer another opportunity of targeting geo-based audiences,” he adds.

9X Media has 9X Tashan for Punjabi Music and 9X Jhakaas for Marathi music.

Punit Pandey
Punit Pandey

Punit Pandey, chief business officer, 9X Media, says that as part of its content diversification strategy it chose a vertical route and decided to build a music vertical. “There was a huge growth in regional consumption of content. Punjabi music is not film-driven but has an independent market. We saw a great opportunity there. While our rivals show all content on their channels, we have restricted ourselves only to curated music.”

TV Vision also has a Marathi music channel Maiboli. ShowBox offers Punjabi and Haryanvi music on its channel itself in dedicated slots. “The new young India is open to listening to music from a lot of independent artists. And our programming mix is now reflecting that. Just as people are watching content in lot many languages, they are also listening to music in other languages,” D’souza says.

Differentiation is the key

An age-old challenge faced by the music genre on television is the duplicity of content. The same songs play on all channels. Due to this most of them are Free to Air channels. While differentiation is quite difficult in this space, channels do it through their format and programming.

TV Vision launched it in 2010 with the tagline ‘Comedy aur Music ka Sabse Bada Dose’. Since comedy formed a very important part of the Sri Adhikari Brothers group, the channel played short comedy gags of popular comedians. With time it evolved into being just a music channel.

Adhikari says, “Every music channel has the same content. What stands out is how they play it and at what time. It is also about how you package the channel to make it look attractive.”

IN10 Media Network’s music channel ShowBox brings in the differentiation through its packaging and content curation. The channel went through a rebranding exercise in August last year. It added a lot of digital tools, like the scrub bar on streaming platforms that show the duration, a song information watermark that stay through the song, a trivia popup. In terms of the curation, the channel brings it in through its Punjabi and Haryanvi mix. The initiative seems to have borne fruit- the channel has been leading in the genre for the last few weeks.

D’Souza says the idea behind the rebranding was to provide a different look and experience.

“We concentrated on the youth, which is very social media savvy and community-driven. So now our channel is very social media friendly. When we are watching a song, we tend to Google it to find out more about the artist or the star. Now we will provide the trivia along with the song,” he says.

9X Media brought it through its short format animated humourous characters that would play between the songs.

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