Star India’s music channel, Channel V, is downing shutters this week and it will be replaced by a sports channel. Star India has declined to comment on this change.
Why Star may be launching a Kannada sports channel (Star Sports 1 Kannada) in lieu of its music channel is easy to understand from the strategy which Star India’s chairman and chief executive Uday Shankar has been following—that of a sharp focus on sports. With the launch of a Tamil sports channel in May, the network boasts of a cluster of 10 sports channels. That’s not all. In September, Star India Pvt. Ltd bid for and won the broadcast and digital streaming rights (Indian and global) to the Indian Premier League Twenty20 cricket tournament for the next five seasons for Rs16,347.50 crore.
Star Sports Kannada’s launch this week will coincide with the start of the fourth edition of the Indian Super League football tournament, reflecting Star Network’s interest in boosting its sports portfolio.
However, the closure of Channel V may come as a big disappointment for its fans. Channel V has, after all, been around for more than 20 years even though it has had a roller coaster ride in the country pitted, as it was, against MTV.
Interestingly, MTV was very much part of Star’s India journey when it was first launched here. Star TV (now Star India) launched with channels such as MTV (through a tie-up with Viacom), Star Movies and Star Plus (an English language channel initially) in its portfolio. When Star wanted to increase the content mix of MTV to make it more Indian, it was not acceptable to MTV owners. So MTV moved out of the Star platform.
Consequently, Star launched its own music channel—Channel V. This was an Asia launch with a separate beam for India (and South-East Asia). Channel V for India had both English and Hindi content with Video Jockeys like Sophiya Haque and Ruby Bhatia.
MTV, meanwhile, returned to India with a slot on Doordarshan and later launched as a full-fledged music channel competing with Channel V. It had a mix of local and international content.
In its heydays, Channel V created several memorable characters like Udham Singh—the Haryanvi jat, a role played by Munish Makhija. Lola Kutty was another popular character played by theatre artiste Anuradha Menon. She interviewed celebrities on the channel as a sari-clad woman from Kerala who spoke English with a Malayali accent. With inventive programming, Channel V became a cool brand for young Indians.
But MTV too was gaining popularity. Channel V came under pressure and tried to be more like MTV even as the two rivals tried to outsmart each other.
“It is unfortunate that Channel V is closing down," says Ashish Patil, former chief executive at MTV India, now vice-president brand partnerships and talent management at Y-Films, the youth arm of Yash Raj Films. Patil spent 12 years at MTV. “The trouble is, Channel V used to have a re-launch every three years," says Patil. “Meanwhile, MTV kept reinventing with music, lifestyle, romance, gadgets as well as reality shows such as Roadies and Splitsvilla which are still around. We also did music awards, style awards and extended the brand into merchandise."
An entertainment channel veteran, however, says that when Ronnie Screwvala-promoted UTV launched Bindass in 2007 positioned as a youth entertainment channel with shows like Emotional Atyachar which gave it both ratings and better advertising yield, MTV and Channel V blinked and have since kept changing their content.
Last year, MTV strategically launched MTV Beats channel to cater to an audience looking for Bollywood music. That allowed the channel to focus on youth-based content which has hits like Splitsvilla, Roadies and India’s Top SuperModel, among other programmes. Interestingly, while MTV Beats has been classified as a Hindi music channel under the Broadcast Audience Research Council (Barc) India ratings, MTV falls under the youth entertainment category.
According to the latest ratings by Barc, Channel V is ranked number seven among Hindi music channels after MTV Beats which is at number six. The top slot is taken by music channel Mastii, which is run by Sri Adhikari Brothers Television Network Ltd (SABTNL) and has been number one for close to five years.
To stay relevant to its audiences, Channel V changed tack a couple of times. In 2012, it was reinvented as a fiction and reality show channel. However, in four years’ time, last July, it switched to being a youth-focused music brand. Accordingly, it shifted between being a youth entertainment and music channel in Barc classification too.
Besides changing tack, the channel also saw frequent changes in leadership. According to a media industry expert, there’s been lack of focus and consistency at Channel V—it has changed too many times and too drastically over the last few years. “The brand therefore has no positioning. It is too arduous a task now to come back from there. Too much money and effort would be required. It moved from music to fiction to music all in four years," he says, declining to be named.
When the channel went into the realm of fiction, it had to compete with the general entertainment channels. “The ad rates didn’t match up and there were losses as a result of three hours of original programming on weekdays," says the expert.
Channel V probably didn’t get its strategy right in the last 7-8 years. Lack of focus and sharp positioning along with little thought in branding took the channel down.
Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff. Respond to this column at email@example.com.