Interview: TV viewing is 3.5 hrs on average for youngsters: Navin Shenoy, Viacom18

Navin Shenoy

In conversation with Media Samosa, Navin Shenoy from Viacom18 sheds light on MTV’s content strategy, consumer insights and plans ahead.

Navin Shenoy, Head of Marketing-Youth, Music and English Entertainment, Viacom18 takes Media Samosa behind some of their biggest properties and the insights that led to them. Shenoy talks about MTV’s brand-love campaigns, TDL for 2020, and more.


2019 has been a coming off age year in terms of the content industry in India.  Please share a few content consumption trends witnessed in the year.

  • Firstly, it’s an ‘and’ story. If you look at 15-21-year-old, he continues to consume TV 3-3.5 hrs of the day ‘and’ he consumes online video.
  • One thing that has happened with the advent of social media is that the attention span of youngsters has gone down.
  • The other noticeable aspect is that young people want to educate themselves through content online. By educating themselves I mean through inspirational stories, through TV serials or reality shows on how to conduct themselves, how to deal with a certain situation or a person.

With so many audio and video OTT services coming in and data costs going down, how has this impacted television viewership? Any changes in MTV’s viewership?

For the last two years, TV viewing has been 3.5 hrs on average for youngsters. What they have added is viewing content over the app. It is believed that TV viewing is a separate and online viewer in a different bucket. It is not necessarily true.

A consumer consumes content. Screen choice is a matter of convenience.

Our digital channel, VOOT continues to grow in terms of viewership and some of the top shows continue to be MTV shows. This tells us that the ‘screen’ is a matter of choice/convenience. But the content, if it hits a ‘sweet spot’, will continue to be consumed.

In 2020, what would be your USP to stand out in terms of content? Please share your content and distribution strategy.

One of the key insights we shared through Mera Bharat Amazeballs report is that young people want to get behind the causes they believe in and actually go on-ground and make action happen.

Keeping that in mind, we have repurposed our flagship show ‘Roadies’ to ‘Roadies Revolution’ which would mean that the contestants on the show will not be doing the usual tasks but also would have to get behind certain causes and do an action that shows the impact in that space. In doing so, the insights would inform the content strategy.

Similarly, last year we had another show called ‘Hustles’, which was India’s first Hip Hop reality show. One thing we picked up that prompted us for the next season is the fact even in music in India for the Hindi-speaking audience, Bollywood is a broad brush. That has a certain flavor but hip-hop was emerging as an underground flavor, very antithetical to Bollywood which was more poetry than mass-lyrics, more emotion than item song, and so on. That’s the reason we said, let’s invest behind HipHop. The growth driver here is the content rather than just the singing skills which make the entry barrier lower than that of Bollywood music where you require trained singers.

What surprised us is that original content written by a young boy or girl-next-door has taken off to this extent. We intend to continue with the insights that we’ve built up. This will form our content strategy.

On the distribution side, IVOOT has done well with 100 million monthly active users and that would be the platform to give us increasing reach.

Also read: Zee Café’s TV-First approach has made us disruptors in the category: Kartik Mahadev, ZEEL

Please share the top 3 trends you foresee in the Indian television space for 2020.

  • One, the duration might get questioned in terms of younger people coming to the market with a shorter attention span.
  • ‘Regional’ will continue to do well.
  • I see learning new things from the content as an important driver for people. So, it will be interesting to see how it plays out in content, as well.

What according to you is that secret ingredient or mantra that has kept MTV going for years now? What has been the sustaining strategy, so to say? The key focus areas?

  • One, the secret sauce has been the MTV Insight study. All of our thought processes come out of it.
  • Second is we have moved long back from looking at MTV as just a television channel to a youth platform.
  • The third is we also take some risks that later gets confirmed as something that only MTV could do. So, certain activities such as Biriyani emoticon amongst others helped us to stay ahead of the curve else we will become the same as GEC.

What is MTV’s media mix like? How much of the total marketing pie does digital occupy?

Our significant focus is on digital and social. That’s also because we cater to a young demographic. For example, every month on average we reach 75-100 million people on social.

Digital becomes a relevant part of our mix and to be able to reach a vast segment of people is a task in itself. This medium helps us in the direction

Please shed some light on the recent campaigns ‘Trash Talk’ and ‘Biryani Emoticon’? What was the insight and rationale behind the campaigns? Also, the objective to be achieved?

Trash Talk emanates from the Youth Insight study-

Young people have become action-oriented and are behind causes. One of the top causes we had was plastic. We decided that everybody who’s giving us a trashy comment, for each comment we’ll clean 1 Kg of plastic. On Dussehra, we announced the reason that plastic is the new Raavan and that’s the Raavan we’ve to defeat together.

The reason we did biriyani was that there is also a jester side to our personality which is the dominant side.

As a brand, we are a dual personality between a Hero and a Jester because there’s a change that we believe we want to bring about, there’s obviously a fun side to us. We don’t believe in being unidimensional.

Young people use gazillion emoticons but if you look at the keypad, it doesn’t have any Indian food. There are ingredients separately like chicken, rice but no biriyani emoticon. We realized that young people are getting behind biriyani as if it were a religion. When we spoke to food apps, the most commented and ordered food was biriyani.

Hence, we came to the conclusion that this is something that is close to young people’s hearts.

these are brand-love campaigns with the aim to build top of mind recall and brand affinity.

What is the way forward for MTV Insights Studio?

We plan to introduce new ethnographies that haven’t been in this market before. This will help increase our stature and give us sharper insights. Normally, the insight studio works in conjunction with shows where we research or provide inputs if a certain show-format needs to be tweaked in a certain manner. For example, ‘Roadies’ becomes the ‘Roadies Revolution’ when the insight studio recommends it.

On the content side, we will keep building a new pipeline of shows basis the insights we already have.

What are the digital trends that you foresee in the category for 2020?

Two things come to the mind in the context:

  • Youth is skeptical about influencer marketing
  • Short format ads will continue for brands across sectors.



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A storyteller and a narrator by heart, vocalist by genes and a thesaurus-bee. Also, an explorer, traveler, and trekker, Aishwarrya has myriads of interests with love for music and movies. Writing is not just a hobby but her first love with a Facebook page on perspectives, channelizing the passion. Got her research paper published with IGI Global US on music. A maverick by nature and a feminist by choice, to challenge stereotypes.


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