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MTV ups its game with original content, continues to shape youth genre: Ferzad Palia

MTV has unveiled its aggressive content strategy riding on the back of 10 hours of new original content per week. The new line-up will open with the fourth season of ‘India’s Next Top Model’, followed by ‘Elovator Pitch’ and ‘Ace of Space’. 

MTV had cemented its grasp over young India with 400 million viewers having tuned into the channel and garnering 6 billion watch-minutes on Voot in the last one year. 

Elaborating on the content strategy, Ferzad Palia, Head – Youth, Music and English Entertainment, Viacom18, explained, “MTV is perhaps India’s longest standing youth entertainment brand. This legacy has evolved through fads, cultural shifts and now even platforms. Over the last year, our TV ratings have doubled and consumption on Voot has grown 3-fold. With fresh, disruptive formats and content innovation at the core of MTV, we are home to the country’s most successful unscripted content through shows like ‘MTV Roadies’, ‘Splitsvilla’, ‘Dating in the Dark’, ‘Troll Police’, ‘Love School’, et al. As we build the MTV universe even further across platforms through increased interactivity and an enhanced fandom experience, we will also cement our position as India’s leading creator of multi-platform unscripted content.” 

Malaika Arora, Milind Soman, Anusha Dandekar, Dabboo Ratnani and Neeraj Gabba will be mentoring the new crop of fashionistas for ‘India’s Next Top Model Season 4’. The show premieres on October 6, and will air every Saturday at 7 pm. 

‘Elovator Pitch’ is a quirky speed dating show that will see the return of youth icons Cyrus Sahukar and Gaelyn Mendonca to the MTV content fold. The show premieres on October 12, and will air every Friday 7 pm. 

‘Ace of Space’ is a reality show built on the Darwinian principal of survival of the fittest. MTV has roped in last year’s ‘Bigg Boss’ finalist Vikas Gupta as the ‘mastermind’ who sets the rules of the game. The show premieres on October 20, and will air daily at 6 pm. 

Adgully caught up with Ferzad Palia to know more about the latest slew of original shows, MTV’s performance so far, YOY growth, evolution of the youth genre in India and more. Excerpts: 

What’s the idea behind launching so many original shows on MTV?
We have been testing a lot of original content on MTV for the last one year. Earlier, our original content was largely around ‘Roadies’ and ‘Splitsvilla’, which have seen great success for these unscripted shows. Keeping this in mind, we thought of pushing the boundaries and create more such stuff that consumers like. We do a lot research as well before launching any show and till now we have found that viewers want more of such content. 

In 2016, we took a conscious call of creating a separate brand for music – MTV Beats, a 24x7 music channel, plus it also helps us to play well in the FTA space. 

On MTV, from 2-3 original shows, we now have approximately 10 original shows which are doing really well. We have been reinventing some of our old formats, which continue to grow well on the ratings as well as the revenue front every single year. We keep changing the format and try to bring in freshness with new faces and tasks. 

Our ratings have doubled in the last 12 months, which is a huge success for us. With this, we have also realised that though we are doing good, we need to do even more, which is why we are launching these three shows. 

As per BARC ratings, MTV has been topping the youth genre for a very long time now. What are the factors driving this growth?
We excel at understanding our consumers and their needs. We do a lot of research to understand what exactly our consumers want. It is a tough job because you have to be ahead of the curve and also have to introduce new trends that people don’t know about. I think we have successfully managed to put out content and engage with viewers in a way that nobody has really managed to do, because no one is making such kind of content in the country. This really makes us a strong platform that creates unscripted content. 

This apart, we do many stuff on digital as well. Over the last two years, our consumption has tripled on digital. We are growing on TV and OTT, but it is also our social interaction on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat that has given us great traction. 

Given the media fragmentation and so many avenues open for youth to consume content today, what kind strategy does MTV have in place to attract new viewers as well as retain existing viewers?
Content is content. The mode of consumption differs from people to people. We kept on saying this two years back that short format will work for digital, but we have dispelled that myth because all our content is 40-45 minutes in length and they are doing phenomenally well on digital. We have created separate content for digital, especially Voot, which have done really well. 

Where do you see the youth genre headed?
We are shaping this genre, because nobody else is creating content like us. Barring a couple of players, I don’t think they keep the youth in mind when they create content. I think a lot of onus of where this genre goes depends on us and we are happy to take it ahead. We have always been the country’s No. 1 youth brand and we have cemented that position strongly now. 

What has the advertisers’ response been?
The youth are consuming different kinds of content – ranging from music to long form content, sports, movies and many more. I think now where the advertisers see the virtue more than ever is the kind of reach that youth entertainment channels offers. The good part is that now advertisers are seeing virtue in the way they can integrate their brand in the storyline itself. 

What has MTV’s YOY growth been like?
We have doubled our ratings, which is unprecedented. It’s a good time for our business. 

What is MTV’s contribution to the overall growth of Viacom18?
The contribution is invaluable. Remember, Viacom18 was formed on the back of a large business, called MTV, some 10 years back, when it was MTV Networks. Thus, we occupy an invaluable space which very few other media companies have managed to occupy in the youth space. What we bring to Viacom18 is a very clear vision of segmentation, and this is our play towards the youth sector.

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