afaqs! news bureau

Viacom18 announces MTV Nishedh, a Rs 35 crore project

Nishedh will premiere on MTV India starting January 25, 2020 every Saturday and Sunday at 8 pm and on Colors Rishtey starting February 1, 2020 every Saturday and Sunday at 10:30 pm.

In a distinct and ambitious drive to inform and educate around healthier social norms, break societal stigmas and give voice to some of the most taboo topics for young people, The MTV Staying Alive Foundation has partnered with Viacom18 to bring a new campaign to India in January 2020. “MTV Nishedh” will focus on fostering healthier attitudes and behaviours and removing the stigma surrounding several health-related issues, including sexual reproductive health and wellbeing, contraceptive care, tuberculosis (TB) and nutrition.

At the heart of the campaign is a 13-episode fiction series, reflecting the trials and tribulations faced by many young people in India today, using themes of love, ambition, family and health to deliver a powerful and inspirational story. The series aims to educate its audience, and to get young people talking and seeking more information about important and often neglected and overlooked issues.

Is it a CSR activity? "It's business for us," replies Sudhanshu Vats, Group chief executive officer and managing director, Viacom18, "We approached it like a mainstream show and we were clear that it needs to be entertaining. We believe if the show is not entertaining, the message won't go through. In its own right, it is an entertainment show which conveys those messages," he adds.

MTV Nishedh, produced by Mumbai-based production company Victor Tango, will premiere on MTV India starting January 25, 2020 every Saturday and Sunday at 8 pm and on Colors Rishtey starting February 1, 2020 every Saturday and Sunday at 10:30 pm. MTV Nishedh will also be available anytime on Voot. Vats informs that it is a Rs 35 crore ("$5 million") project which has been funded by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and The Centre for Social and Behaviour Change, Ashoka University, along with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Sudhanshu Vats
Sudhanshu Vats

Vats says he is clear he wants to reach as many viewers as possible and to ensure that Viacom18 uses all its network resources for it. However, the network has decided to telecast it on its youth channel MTV and not on Colors, which is its leading GEC. "It is difficult to mount a 13-episode finite series during prime time in India," responds Vats. He adds, "That has got nothing to do with the content of the show as we have seen, it's fantastic. Marketing becomes very challenging. Naagin is a finite show but that is a 100-150 episode long finite series. Having said that, with MTV, Colors Rishtey and Voot, we are capturing a wide spectrum."

The campaign weaves in messaging around sexual reproductive health and wellbeing, contraceptive care and options, consent, preventing teenage pregnancy and reducing stigma around abortion, into its characters and stories. An educational grant from Johnson & Johnson Services, Inc. has enabled the campaign to integrate messaging around the realities of TB in India – which has the world’s highest burden of this airborne disease – so young people can better understand the signs and symptoms of the disease and help reduce the stigma that is too often associated with it. With Unicef India, MTV Nishedh will also raise awareness around the importance of nutrition for adolescent girls, with a focus on anaemia.

MTV Nishedh has been adapted from The MTV Staying Alive Foundation’s multi-award-winning campaign ‘MTV Shuga’ that has had a proven impact on health and behaviour change in Africa. Based on the same model, MTV Nishedh’s 360 degree campaign uses storytelling to raise awareness and reduce stigma around key issues. In addition to the TV drama, the campaign features a robust digital content strategy, a 15-part radio drama and peer to peer education.

Georgia Arnold, executive director, MTV Staying Alive Foundation and executive producer of MTV Nishedh says, “Bringing the highly successful MTV Shuga model to India facilitates young Indians to take up more space on issues affecting their everyday lives. The power of MTV Nishedh is in its reflection of real life - we engage young people in all stages of its development to ensure the stories are relatable, entertaining, and highly engaging. Crucially, all our content drives the audience to health services where they can receive valuable help. We believe MTV Nishedh has the potential to be a genuinely relevant cultural asset, as well as a successful public health campaign.”

Sonia Huria
Sonia Huria

Sonia Huria, head - corporate marketing, communications and sustainability, Viacom18, adds, “Interestingly, some of our biggest successes have been stories that speak of societal issues or regressive societal norms – be it Balika Vadhu, It's Not That Simple, Angels of Rock, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. Projects like Navrangi Re! and MTV Nishedh are natural extensions of this philosophy of using content to amplify social change."

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