He swears by the thumb rule of commitment to his genre (movies and music) and believes in giving more to it by perpetual value addition. Neeraj Vyas, executive vice president and business head, Max and Mix, is a decade and a half old in MSM (Multi Screen Media). But getting into sales was never a part of his plan. He recalls, “Like innumerable other graduates of this country, I was clueless as to what I was doing. I had an inclination toward film-making and hence I joined FTII’s (Film and Television Institute of India) one year Film Appreciation course after graduation.” He also did a short course in film production from XIC (Xavier’s Institute of Communication) but soon he realised that film-making was no mean feat.
Then he joined JBIMS (Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies) for a one year marketing diploma and went on to join Cine Blitz magazine in sales. Luckily for him, he began to like the job. Vyas reminisces,
“You get drawn into sales because it involves a lot of learning of data interpretation and business grassroots, and it pays you really well.” The next four and a half years spent at Cine Blitz were pure learning for Vyas. He mentions, “Any job in sales gives you confidence in the way you approach people, and that’s exactly what Cine Blitz did for me. It taught me what brands wanted out of advertising, what was the significance of a media plan, a print plan and a TV plan.”
In 1995, Vyas moved to SET India (Sony Entertainment Television) to manage sales for the western region of Mumbai. He then went on to head their Bengaluru office and was pivotal in setting up their office in Chennai.
In 2006, Vyas was promoted as the national sales head for MSM’s GEC business (which by now included Max), and he continued to play this role till 2010 when he was elevated to the post of executive vice president and business head for Max, while Sneha Rajani was elevated to the post of senior executive vice president and business head for SET (Sony Entertainment Television) post the exit of Ajit Thakur (then business head, SET).
According to TAM figures for the past 52 weeks of 2011, Max has had the highest channel share (28%) among Hindi movie channels, for HSM CS4+ market.
Vyas explains how Max has been a unique offering in the Hindi movie channel genre. “I have always believed in giving more to a genre in order for it to grow and flourish. Max was no exception. Right from the little tit-bits about the making of a movie (called Extra Shots) to airing cricket matches on a movie channel (from 2002), Max has enjoyed a distinct status in the market,” he says.
“Extra Shots as a property grew as a result of pure research and we found out that it has almost 96% recall value. It broke the norm that people preferred to watch back-to-back movies. Such things are necessary to be imbibed within the genre to keep it alive otherwise you get into a limbo,” he adds.
IPL telecast rights is another significant feat associated with Max but Vyas maintains that there’s an equally high cost of acquisition rights involved in telecasting IPL on the channel.
In September 2011, MSM announced the launch of its next channel, Sony Mix, and this became part of Vyas’ mandate as well; he was appointed business head for the new music channel, in addition to his responsibility for Max.
(In fact, he counts launching the channel as his proudest moment in his 16-year career at MSM, scoring over another achievement of the team sustaining revenues even in the worst days at Sony (from 2005-09) when the channel was on a bit of a downslide.)
Vyas, who is passionate about movies and music, calls Mix a soulful music channel which presents a repertoire of Bollywood music blended in with a play-out strategy to suit audience’s mood at a given point during the day. “Even our launch campaign, ‘Din bhar ke mood anek, music channel ek’ focused on this simple thought and hence the programming line-up involves Surili Subah in the morning, followed by Ishq Vishq; then there’s Mix Adda (tempo theme), and finally Raina beeti jaye later in the night.”
He explains how this gives the channel an opportunity to provide variety to the audience, so much so that, if the active playlist of any other music channel would involve 250 unique songs per month, theirs actually offers around 650 songs per month.
Vyas is emphatic when it comes to the quality of telecast on both the channels he is handling at the moment. He shares, “We have invested in a software that fine tunes the sound quality of old songs (for Mix) which is why when you hear them on our channel, you find a marked difference in the audio output viz-a-viz any other channel in the genre.”
Interestingly, Mix, a pay channel, is not available in markets like Punjab and West Bengal. He explains, “For a channel that has just gone into full-fledged ad-sales a month ago, distribution was really critical. We had to prioritise on markets based on TAM weightage. The average time spent on watching music was considerably low in these two markets and therefore, we decided to stay away from them.”
He further notes, “Despite not being widely available, we’ve been at the top or the second rank in terms of time spent by a viewer. We are at 17-18 GRPs per week currently and we hope to break-even in a year from now.” Vyas believes that Mix is seen to have differentiated content and the advertisers will be willing to pay a premium to target the audience they attract.
For Max, Vyas plans to experiment with different break structures to tackle the issue of excess advertising that plagues the movie channel genre. He ends the tête-à-tête on a high note and says, “There are three passions in India: movies, music and cricket. With Max and Mix, we have all three of them. If you peg them to your audience with the right focus and perspective, you can’t go wrong.”
The Flip Side
Where do you live Andheri (East)
Favourite Holiday Spot Thailand
Always in your Fridge Apple Juice
Favourite Hangout in Mumbai Hard Rock Cafe, Worli
Mobile App Angry Birds
If not the EVP of Max I’d be a movie director
Movies I like watching feel good cinema
Recent favourite in the genre Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
Top five movies The Shawshank Redemption, Anand, Sholay, Chak De, 3 Idiots
Favourite song Tum pukar lo, tumhara intezaar hai
Mantra for life You get what you see