Staying relevant in Asia

We interviewed Paras Sharma, Senior Vice President and General Manager for Southeast Asia Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN), who spoke about the importance of OTT and mobile, and touched on the recent launch of BET in South Korea.


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  1. Media content companies must get bigger to compete in the quickly changing media landscape” said Shari Redstone. With that in mind, has the ball already started rolling for Asia?

In Southeast Asia, we approach scale through partnerships with distributors but more importantly, scale is also attained by consolidating our efforts on our flagship six brands to realise the full potential of our portfolio: MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Comedy Central, BET and Paramount.

For instance, in the last two years, we have launched Paramount Channel in Thailand, Vietnam and most recently, in Malaysia. Asia is a strategic market for VIMN and we will continue to make content relevant for our viewers.

 

  1. What is the rationale for the launch of BET Channel in Asia? Where next after South Korea for the channel?

We want to deepen our presence in South Korea and in Asia so the launch of BET is a stride towards that, while augmenting our portfolio of adult-targeted brands. Asia is home to some of the most mature audiences with a strong pulse on pop culture and we believe that the BET Channel will identify with audiences in this part of the world, as well as establish a strong fan base for those who love urban culture.

However, expansion to us is not just through footprint, and another way that we approach it is through our lens on content and talent development; strengthening our partnerships with TV distributors and advertisers; and investing in short-form video content.

 

  1. You are currently keeping fresh content off the OTTs, any ambitions to build your own platform?

OTT and mobile offer an important growth path for VIMN so I’d like to point out that we are committed to collaborating with partners on next-generation solutions that will provide improved viewing experiences.

In particular, with mobile growth huge in the Southeast Asian region, we want to expand the depth and reach of our flagship brands across multiple platforms. One way is through our Viacom Play Plex, a suite of mobile TV apps such as Nickelodeon Play, MTV Play, Comedy Central Play etc. that allow distribution partners to offer smartphone and tablet users access to our content. In Singapore, the Nickelodeon Play app was launched through a partnership with Singtel in August 2016.

These apps complement our linear pay TV channels and allow our existing distribution partners to deepen and improve the entertainment experience they offer their subscribers. To sum up, it will position us to succeed in a world of more personalised entertainment services and greater consumer choice.

 

  1. How do you keep MTV relevant in the age of YouTube and the music streaming platforms? 

Our approach to relevance is how we connect the MTV brand to our core audiences and fans. This focus is guided by the brand’s content creation, acquisition, engagement, presentation, distribution, and marketing strategies.

In Southeast Asia, we continue to create content across markets that reflect today’s young audiences and their interests, aspirations, and lifestyles. This results in a wide diaspora of programming: from long-form to bite-sized content, reality to entertainment, sit-back content to interactive programming, live music events to getting upclose with artists, and from international icons to regional or local stars and more. Some of these programmes include MTV Asia Spotlight, Just Tattoo of Us, Catfish, Ok Danceoke, Vidiots, MTV Unplugged, and The MTV Show.

In addition to our breadth of programming to fulfil the varied needs of our audiences, we keep them continuously engaged. An ‘always on’ approach through ongoing dialogue with them is employed, and this is reflected in how we create bespoke content, and engage them on various social media platforms to maximise the connection. We also build interactivity in our presentation to fans, via creative means such as live content polls through a variety of new technologies.

Forming creative partnerships is another way we approach fan engagement. For example, we partnered Musical.ly for our dance tutorial show, OK Danceoke, where Musical.ly users or musers, were challenged to perform dance moves from excerpts of Season 2 music videos. The top 50 videos, judged on their popularity and the accuracy of the dance, were incorporated into short-form content for Ok Danceoke Season 2.

And knowing that our fans place high importance to ‘real life’ experiences, we create and enable priceless experiences for them through multiple means – by bringing them the LIVE experience through our signature events such as MTV World Stage, MTV Music Evolution, MTV Sessions and other events that we partner with. These priceless experiences are also supplemented by several initiatives such as MTV Insider, FanEx, or Big Pass which give fans exclusive access to their favourite artistes.

A recent first for us was how we brought a live telecast of Busan One Festival, a popular K-wave festival, to fans in Southeast Asia. In addition to broadcasting it live across platforms, some lucky fans were also invited to watch this live in Busan, South Korea.

Ultimately, it is our aim to have the MTV brand connect with our fans across three worlds of content – Traditional, Digital and Real and we are driven to deliver that.