The beginning of September saw the launch of a new 24x7 Hindi music channel, Sony MIX, by Multi Screen Media. Just a day earlier, on August 31, 9X Media Group launched 9X Tashan, a Punjabi music channel. The group already has Hindi music channel, 9XM. In the first week of August, Hindi music channel Mastiii extended its music plus one-minute humour interstitials to two half-hour humour serials during 7.30-8.30 pm every Monday-Thursday. The shows are slated to run for three months each.
It's not as if music channels are the very rage among India's viewers, or that they are earning so much advertising money that they are irresistible for broadcasters. In fact, older music channels MTV and Channel [V] moved away from pure music to more broadbased fare, mostly reality shows.
Mastiii's move to show serials expresses a need to bring in more sticky fare, since all music channels agree that viewers mostly visit them for 'snacking' - coming in, catching a number here or there, and moving out.
Neeraj Vyas, executive VP and business head, Sony MIX, observed of a leading music channel, based on TAM figures, "The channel draws in viewership for 25 minutes in a week. That's three-and-a-half minutes or a single song a day. And this is not unusual for a music channel."
And yet broadcasters are willing to invest in 24x7 music channels. 9X Media says that Tashan's launch is the beginning of its plan to develop the music vertical on TV. "We want to get into the regional space and will have more offerings beyond Tashan, going forward," said Punit Pandey, senior VP and business head, 9X Media Group.
On whether Mastiii is moving towards the general entertainment space with its new serials, Mujhe Meri Family Se Bachao and Gajab Family, Anita Verma, its associate VP - programming, said: "Sure, we're looking at getting more TRPs (viewer numbers). But we are not moving away from our core focus of music and humour. We're still 80% about music."
In the bigger picture, music is such an important part of entertainment in India that no one can afford to miss out on it. New Bollywood channel UTV Stars, launched in July-end, has 64% of music content. Zoom, another Bollywood channel, has over 60%.
India is a market where its film industry generates practically all its popular music. Siddharth Roy, COO, Hungama Digital Media, said: "Every year, India sees close to 2,000 films launched, preceding which are their music releases. Films have a large dependency on the success of their music. In India, music is a derivative of cinema."
The channels say that music offers them opportunity if they can hold viewers beyond their snacking tendency. Each is working on new ideas to create greater stickiness. So while Mastiii experiments with serials, 9X continues to swear by the combination of music and animation character-driven humour. It has extended the same formula to Tashan.
"The music genre on TV has shrunk over time. Data tells us that it is due to lack of stickiness essentially because all music channels target youth. Everyone plays the same numbers too. However, beyond the usual 14-24 years age group, there's also a completely underserved, massive segment in the 25-40 years age group. We, at Sony MIX, will target both. Then, we've day-parted the channel to by more in sync with the different viewer moods over the day. If we get this right, more people will watch more of our channel," said Vyas. And no video jockeys, no animated characters and only one three-minute movie trailer in an hour.
Will digital delivery of music (audio), which is recording the highest growth, dim TV's music prospects? Amar Tidke, programming head, 9XM, responded: "The relationship between viewing and listening to music are symbiotic. Visual helps you relate to the music better. Seeing Salman Khan doing the Dhinka chika number makes you relate to it better, as with Katrina Kaif and Sheila ki jawaani. When you subsequently choose to just listen, the visual connection remains with you."