Thursday, March 23, 2006

Duh! Moment - Music Television

The cable television revolution hit India in 1991 with the Iraq invasion of Kuwait. Cable was around for some time before that, but this one was the impetus for the take off of the cable boom in India. After all, a war was being beamed live. Many TV channels were launched at about this time in India. Among others, MTV India made its debut as noted in this case study

"MTV", discusses the growth of MTV in India. MTV made its debut in 1991 when its distributor in India was the Hong Kong-based Star Network. Its India-specific operations started only in 1996 with the launch of `MTV India'. MTV is a 24-hour music channel that primarily caters to viewers in the age group of 15 to 34 years. MTV India features 70% Indian music and 30% international music. MTV India has consistently positioned itself as a youth channel, catering to the Indian youth with its mixed offerings of music, humor and fashion. MTV India has largely localized its programming content by showing more India-based programmes, which is a major departure from MTV's earlier avatar in 1991.

The first time I watched MTV, I went, Duh? A majority of it was a rehash or a replay of American programmes without a single reference to India. Indeed if you only watched the programmes, you could convince yourself that you are in some other part of the world. It was true that there was a hype of foreign, English songs etc. and the size of the market. It was also a belief in certain sections that the size of the English music listening crowd was very high. But truth is that, that market is at best a fraction of the entire total market. Some of the earlier FM Radio channels also discovered (and are discovering, even 15 odd years down the line) the same thing, that the hype for western music does not translate into listenership. As mentioned in the case study, MTV changed, over time bringing Indianness to its repertoire. Today it is 70% Indian and about 30% English.

Channel V however got it right, though I am not sure if it was the first time. Quick Gun Murugan and "We are like this only" from Channel V, brought V more eyeballs. The "we are like this only" attitude got V more than brownie points than MTV got from its hifalutin attitude. As director of that set of spots, Shashanka Ghosh says here, in this interview:

I had already done a series called Quickgun Murugan-this was a series of spots on Chanel V and it was said at one time that this pretty much redefined television and viewer sensibility across India. Basically the brief for this was that how d’you indigenize an international music Channel. So a writer called Rajesh Devraj and myself got together and we created this line called ‘we are like this only’. At that point it shook everyone up.

Quickgun Murugan - a take off on South Indian heroes (as opposed to Hindi film heroes) was a riproaring hit and music television was never the same again in India. MTV, picked itself up, dusted itself off, changed its content and well, became smarter. MTV Bakra is a case in point as is the Liftman.

In the initial days of liberalization ( the name we gave to our slow opening up to the world economy) there were many such Duh! moments when there were launches of "foreign" products on the premise that they were "foreign" or "imported". Today, 15 odd years down the line, such Duh! moments are rare with most brands doing their homework before entering India.

No comments: