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With 700 mn views in H1, MTV is the definitive leader for youth content: Ferzad Palia

MTV has delivered strong performance of 700 million views and 3.67 billion minutes of viewership in H1 2019, across TV and Voot. Creating platform agnostic youth content, the first half of calendar year 2019 has been rewarding for MTV. The channel has now beefed up its content line-up with rap battle show ‘MTV Hustle’, ‘MTV Splitsvilla’ is now into its 12th Season, while ‘MTV Ace of Space Season 2’ has also gone on air. 

Elaborating on MTV’s new content line up, Ferzad Palia, Head – Youth, Music and English Entertainment, Viacom18, said, “Incorporating the learnings from our Youth Insights report, we are introducing unique concepts such as ‘Hustle’ and imbibing novelties in successful properties like ‘Splitsvilla’ and ‘Ace of Space’. Experimenting with the time-slot, it’s also the first time that a marquee property like ‘Hustle’ will be aired bi-weekly instead of once over the weekend.” 

In conversation with Adgully, Ferzad Palia speaks at length about MTV’s YOY growth, how the channel has managed to stay relevant to the youth TG, the content strategy, youth activism and more. Excerpts: 

Is the transition from a music channel to a youth channel now complete?
Yes, we play music for 2-3 hours in a day, especially during the morning hours. The rest of the time is dedicated to content. That’s also the reason why we launched MTV Beats two years ago, which is our full play in the music television space. We felt the need to focus on content and music separately rather than doing both half-heartedly. MTV Beats has been doing really well. MTV now is in full flow of creating more and more marquee original content. 

What has driven the 700 million viewership for MTV?
I think we have our pulse on the audience really well. Our Youth Insights study really helps us to be in tune with the audience. The views wouldn’t have come otherwise as the number of avenues for people to consume content has gone up. Moreover, the kind of content that we create has really appealed to the youth. This applies to both returning seasons of older shows and brand new shows like ‘Ace of Spades’. 

How TRAI’s New Tariff Order impacted MTV and the English cluster?
I think, every channel has seen some drop in reach, which was expected. The ones that have stood out are those that are being consumed a lot. So, time spent is really important. People will always have the opportunity to come and consume content wherever it is. People can always sample content and that is counted as reach. However, the advertiser isn’t coming on board for those kind of audiences. They are coming on for people who stick with that piece of content and can see their spot more often. On that front, when it comes to time spent metric, all of the leading channels are right up there. That’s why all the investments that we have made to keep the audience engaged – be it through different kinds of content or through brand building – have really helped us. 

Though the reach numbers are down, it is nothing alarming. Loyal audiences have stayed on and in our case that number has been significantly higher than the competition. We believe we have come out as winners even on the viewership front. This has been very good for us. 

What is the cluster’s contribution to the overall growth of Viacom18?
Our channels appeal to really different audiences rather than everyone. We take care of certain stakeholders in the family, which makes it an essential buy in every pack. That has helped us on the television platform. However, as you see progressively, the content is consumed not just on television. There are multiple avenues for consumption. Therefore, the opportunity for us to monetise has never been richer. 

Read More: MTV announces exciting content line-up for the quarter

So, what is small town India looking at more – TV or Digital?
They are looking at both. It has always been an ‘and’ scenario. Television still remains the one that’s binding the family together, according to our study. Given that people are still open to experimenting with different formats. The slightly older audience, too, is tuning in to shows like ‘Splitsvilla’ and we expect the same for ‘Hustle’, because it is all about expression. 

How are you ensuring that a show like ‘Rap Hustle’ resonates with the Tier 2 and 3 audiences?
We have invited entries from across the country. We were also very pleasantly surprised with the amount of entries coming in from the smaller markets. They kept on coming even when we closed the entries. The smaller markets have been driving growth and have been doing so consistently for some time. 

How have you kept ‘Splitsvilla’, one of your oldest properties, relevant for the audiences over the years?
‘Splitsvilla’ has been growing every single year in every aspect. Whether it is the number of viewers, the amount of time people spend on it every season, and it is also growing on the digital platform. So, I think we’re doing something right and having a pulse over the youth, going deep into their minds and figuring out what they want plays a large role in it. 

Moreover, bringing on board Sunny Leone for the show four years back has also helped in a big way. However in all honesty, it has happened many times globally that you bring in the biggest star of the country and the show still doesn’t do well. Here I feel Sunny has managed to carry the show better and better with Rannvijay with every passing season. It’s been great growth. It is not growth that you can only attribute to the change in talent as both of them have been on the show for a long time. Despite that the show has grown really well, which is a testament to the fact that they are really invested in the show and have been able to make a connect with the audience in a way very few hosts can do.

 

Could you tell us about MTV’s activations for the 2019 General Elections, held earlier this year?
There is a big chunk of the young audiences who aren’t registered voters. Being the leading youth channel, we needed to push the youth to register for voting. That was really our intention behind it and also to let the youth know what they are missing out on. 

Every little thing that we do has an angle of activism to it. We don’t feel that it is enough to put out content for the people watch it, get the reach and be happy about it. If it is not translating into something deeper – be it a psychological change or a change in action on ground – it is of no use to us, because that is not our objective. We see a lot of activism now that is turning into action and there is nothing better than that. Even if we played a small part in that, we are very happy.

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