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Part 2: Viacom18’s Ali Hussein On Monetising, Mobile & Online Music

viacom181In the final half of our interview (Part 1 is here) with Viacom18’s Director, Digital Ali Hussein, he spoke about monetisation, bundling platforms for advertisers, the company’s voice strategy, Mobile TV, online music, and working with Viacom Global and Web18.

ali1How do you monetise content on MTVindia.com?

It gets monetised in a very strategic way. MTV gives us creative liberties to get certain integrations done where no other platform like a Facebook or Orkut can give you such synergies. As a result our activations are always joint. It’s not like selling MTV India but Roadies Battleground through a microsite. There will be a social media strategy, a mobile strategy and a TV strategy and it will be a monetising of the product not the platform.

How are the deals with advertisers structured? Do you charge separately for each medium?

These are not modeled along a CPM or CPC rate. These are sponsorships for premium integrations which will involve components – there will be a digital destination, certain interactions within social media, a social media strategy will be created for them based on this, certain activations either leading from or to TV. These are then completely valued in terms of what all we are delivering in marketing promotion, certain costs involved in production and also certain premiums on brand integrations that we do.

There is no slab or rate structure. Obviously properties like Roadies and Roadies Battleground will be far more premium. Comparatively, Stunt Mania will be different and Fear Factor (Khatron Ke Khiladi) will be on a much larger scale, a Bigg Boss will be of a different scale, especially now with Amitabh Bacchan coming in. If Stunt Mania was x, Roadies would get 4x-5x. Fear Factor and Bigg Boss would be in the 3x-4x range. Roadies is by far the biggest brand that exists in the digital space.

Do you bundle platforms while selling to advertisers?

No, what generally happens is  we do not bundle as in this entire concept of bundling there tends to be a devaluation for one platform that will happen as a result. In a case to case basis, for key clients we do certain offers, digital services in a bundled package but for shows like Roadies, if you log onto the Roadies website Roadies7, you will be able to see that we have Idea on board representing sponsor online, we have Fastrack & Nokia on board as an associate. Now these are sold completely, separately, over and above the on air and television packages that are sold.

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Can you divvy them up by medium – take online or mobile only?

It’s not like I don’t sell them independently but it depends on what merits the property. For example, for Stunt Mania subscriptions to biking tips on mobiles is part of the package. If there’s nothing on the mobile that adds value to the property then it is not considered as part of the strategy. It depends on the strategy for content engagement with the customer and that will define what the product will be.

There have been cases where advertisers have come to us for tactical related stuff to do either online or on mobile. Nokia, Acer, Fastrack have come to us on tactical associations, so has Puma only for mobile. We do these on an ongoing basis: the big shows as well as this tactical stuff.

Do you have any regional advertisers?
It is very difficult; regional advertisers to yet join on the bandwagon.

How is your mobile business doing?

It is divided into four products-the first is obviously SMS subscriptions, contests and votings and activities that we do with our various shows. India’s Got Talent has got some phenomenal voting activity. And Bigg Boss will also have a voting activity within it. SMS subscriptions is based on the Mtv genre. The second platform is voice. We create interesting voice based shows for the TV shows. It is important because it allows us an audio experience with the customers.

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Can you give us an example?

We did one last year where you could listen to tidbits of what was happening in Bigg Boss house, there was a section on the fights that happened, one on love, wishing contestants. Another was with Vodafone and Splitsvilla earlier this year where you could have a voice chat with the contestants. We have quite an evolved voice strategy. It is something we are focusing on and will build even more in times to come.

WAP is the next, the kind of content we deal in – video content. As the video business increases on the mobile platform, it will be interesting going forward.

Videos – are users downloading it or streaming it?

Video downloads becomes part of my VAS business but we have also recently launched Mobile TV for Colors. (More on this in our previous story Viacom18 To Launch Colours On Mobile TV.)

Are you getting different advertisers for mobile TV?

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As far as we have seen, those who have adopted digital advertising are traditional advertisers who are the biggest spenders in the country. But we are also seeing youth brands like Fastrack who have a larger understanding of the engagement on the dig platform and dedicated effort on how to use it. Some of these brands tend to work with us as they have noticed we are an evolved brand within the digital space. They try to create a holistic activation for their customers.


What comes under your purview? Do you work with Web18 and Viacom Global as well?

Our digital team looks after all Viacom18 brands: primarily MTV, Nickelodeon, Colors and VH1. Most of the Studio18 work is looked after by the Studio18 marketing and syndication department in house, though they do consult us. With the way the movies business is structured, it has a lot to do with the distribution deals they strike rather than anything much on the digital front.

On a case by case basis, we do work with Web18 – they did the website for Fear Factor – Kkk.in.com – but we are two separate business units. Mobile is handled independently by us. Web18’s mobile business has a lot to do with publishing platforms on WAP and mobile, and ours is not driven by these. We run a different shortcode, have a separate ASP provider – ACL Wireless (56882).

In case of Viacom Global, we have a reporting cluster – it was earlier with Singapore but is now with UK. Generally there isn’t any consultation, but we do discuss possibilities of deals that can happen across countries, continents.

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Online Music

MTV Global runs MTVMusic.com. Will you attempt to set up online music store here?

It’ll take it’s natural progression. As a business and as a media channel, it’s our responsibility to have a digital engagement program. For us it’s important to have a localised strategy and hence timing is critical. It’s not that we haven’t contemplated but it will take time and we will bring it at an opportune time when we think the market is ready for an uptake of the product.

The iTunes model has been the only success cases as far as online music is concerned. That was because the hardware and software were completely linked and that was the differentiation. Am sure the likes of Nokia are very well positioned to do so, they have just recently launched and time will tell how they perform.

We are associated with Nokia, and for Fear Factor Season 1 we had video content embedded within the N97. This was just one off and am sure we will have more with handset guys in the future.

What did you think of Channel [V]’s relaunch? Did you like it?

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I will reserve my comments. It is very difficult to predict what the 3rd party’s thought or strategy behind it is, and it is premature for us to comment at this stage because we don’t know what’s behind the looks.


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