MTV Unplugged’s viewership has grown 15-20% YOY: Ferzad Palia

MTV is all geared to launch the 8th edition of Royal Stag Barrel Select MTV Unplugged. The latest season will bring an illustrious repertoire of artists like Sonu Nigam, Diljit Dosanjh, Guru Randhawa, Rekha Bhardwaj, the Kakkar sisters, Jonita Gandhi, Amit Mishra, Dhvani Bhanushali, Shahid Mallya, Bhuvan Bam, Arjun Kanungo and many more. 

The theme for the 8th season is ‘Unique Acts’, where every artist will create a set which is unlike any other done by her/him. The audience will see musicians performing unplugged renditions of their popular songs that have captured the hearts of audiences all over for legions of fans. Music industry stalwarts Rekha Bhardwaj and Guru Randhawa will perform their originals, for the first time on TV. 

MTV is rolling out a 360-degree integrated campaign for ‘MTV Unplugged that includes radio, print, digital, cinema and brand associations. 

Since inception, Royal Stag Barrel Select MTV Unplugged has given music in its purest form to the audience. Over the years, MTV Unplugged has secured a forte in offering innovative musical formats to the audience and celebrating music in its rawest ever. 

Speaking on the launch of the 8th season of MTV’s much-loved musical property, Ferzad Palia, Head, Youth, Music and English Entertainment, Viacom18, said, “With Royal Stag Barrel Select MTV Unplugged, we have been successful in curating a musical experience that connects with India’s music loving youth. The last 3 seasons of the show garnered about 100 million TV views in India, a testament to the show’s resonance with its audience. In Royal Stag Barrel Select we have found a partner that has been by our side for 7 seasons in a row and has supported us in creating a unique musical experience. With artist such as Sonu Nigam, Rekha Bhardwaj, Guru Randhawa, Neeti Mohan, Diljit Dosanjh, among others, we have a platform for music lovers of varied genres.” 

Commenting on Royal Stag Barrel Select’s 7-year association with ‘MTV Unplugged’, Kartik Mohindra, Chief Marketing Officer, Pernod Ricard India, said, “Royal Stag Barrel Select MTV Unplugged has become the symbol of perfection and we are proud to have raised the bar with each season. This season, too, we extend this perfect stage to celebrated musicians who will explore music in its purest form. We are delighted to extend our long-standing association with MTV and hope to continue enthralling the Indian audience and bring alive the brand’s philosophy of ‘Make it Perfect’ in every way.” 

In conversation with Adgully, Ferzad Palia speaks about ‘MTV Unplugged’s performance over the years, selecting music and artists for the show, association with Royal Stag Barrel Select and more. Excerpts: 

What has been the viewership for ‘MTV Unplugged’ been like over the years?
I think we can safely say that the property has been growing at 15-20 per cent at least. This number is only for television. The growth percentage on digital is obviously higher because the base will be bigger. The growth on TV itself is quite spectacular, without even take into consideration the listenership on audio streaming platforms. 

The viewership has grown both on-air and off-air. The growth has largely been on digital. In the last 12 months we have seen that MTV as a channel has doubled its ratings. We have also seen a lot of growth outside of television, especially on Voot. All of our content seems to be doing very well on Voot. We had 6 billion minutes of watch time on Voot itself last year. The numbers are staggering! 

Once the episodes for MTV Unplugged go on TV, they will also be available on Voot. 

How are you curating the music?
‘MTV Unplugged’ definitely caters to the youth. We have tracks that were hits two years back that get a rerun and you also have a lot of contemporary tracks which are presented in a pure form, that is, in their acoustic version, without any electronic instruments. The youth lap them up, but this is also one of our properties that goes beyond the youth, because music is universal. You will be surprised by the consumption of what we call retro music by the youth demographic today. The current generation is by far the most experimental when it comes to music. That is why remixes are a big rage today and a lot of the older tracks are getting remixed to suit the tastes of the younger generation. 

What are the selection criteria for artists featured on the show?
You have a certain number of artists in India and there is the criterion of not repeating any artist every season. We look for tracks that are popular, artists who are popular, artists who are making a comeback, and artists who are stalwarts. It has always been a mix of stalwarts, current popular artists, and the fresh talent who will be the future of the industry. 

Sonu Nigam makes a return on ‘MTV Unplugged’ in Season 8…
This is Sonu’s second season. Nobody has been a constant. While we would love to have everyone back every season, the way the property is designed, it is always going to have newer artists come in. 

This year, Sonu Nigam is exploring the Ghazal genre in ‘MTV Unplugged’. Do you think this genre will engage your mostly youth TG?
Everyone has to start somewhere and when you are a brand like MTV that everyone looks up to for breaking music trends, you can take the lead in reintroducing something which was extremely popular once. We believe that the younger audiences are going to identify with Sonu in a way that they haven’t before. On the other hand, the older generation will connect with Diljit Dosanjh and Guru Randhawa in a way that they haven’t before. 

There will be a lot of cross-pollination of genres and sounds that this property will bring with it. 

Could you tell us about your association with Royal Stag for ‘MTV Unplugged’?
Royal Stag has been a phenomenal partner. Usually in a sponsorship model, you go to a brand and say, this is what I can do for you; these are the spots that your ad will play in; this is the line-up of artists. But with Royal Stag, the relationship has evolved in a way that we are co-partners of this property. They have a phenomenal team who understand this space and who are very involved in the entire process. We have a lot of healthy disagreements and they have been involved in this right from the beginning. They have been involved in a lot of ground activations for these properties, where we have taken these artists across big cities. Thus, they lend the property a lot of scale and might.


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