By Hans Ebert
When with Polygram and told that we were going to be 50/50 partners with MTV Asia, it made me feel a little ill. Having met some of the Executives sent to Hong Kong from MTV Networks to teach us heathens the MTV doctrine on Coolness, and the team being put together for Asia including a totally flawed business strategy, signalled that everything was doomed to end in tears. And it did.
Peter Jamieson, former regional head of BMG, below, and, somewhat surprisingly to many offered the gig to run the music channel out of Singapore, was set up for a fall.
The politics were rife and he was quickly out. He was way too trusting of those he thought were his close friends. Wrong. Jamieson was replaced by his Director of Sales, Frank Brown, a nice enough guy, who once sold sex toys somewhere in Scotland. Frank was almost delirious in his new role. Never had he been this hip. Now, he had his own Hipdom, and looking at the photo below, plenty of cheese.
For some reason, I was given the task of looking after Polygram’s interests in MTV. After losing millions in rapid quick time, Polygram put a lock on their investment. It’s shareholding became less and less until we had no stake in the channel.
MTV Asia suddenly realised that one size- and one sound- doesn’t fit all – not in Asia. And so, from one “regional” and Asia Pacific channel, MTV Asia was forced to have three different beams, one only for the Indian market, one for the Greater China region, and another for Asia Pacific- the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
It took around two years for the geniuses running this project to realise that local music fans want their local music heroes and that you can’t force feed Bollywood to any market outside of India, that artists singing in Mandarin fell on deaf ears everywhere outside of Mandarin speaking markets etc.
Other than this fundamental business flaw, there was the chore of keeping the egos of the various Veejays in check- Danny McGill, anyone?-realising the backhanders that had taken place even before the channel was launched, and a team out of Singapore that was more into being cool than running a business.
Simply put, there was always something not quite kosher about what was going on with the channel wherever it existed, but especially in India, where MTV India was its most successful market. Those running the channel led by the extremely “interesting” Peter Muckerjea broke rank to setup a rival channel and lived the good life. And why not?
From being an underpaid Account Director with DDB in Hong Kong, who worked on the STARTV business, and impressed wunderkind Richard Li enough to quickly become head of MTV India, Muckerjea revelled in his new power role. He had it all. He also became a pompous ass.
The problem is no party lasts forever and Muckerjea got caught up with everything and everyone involved in a domino effect and it all crashed in a mess of arrests, divorces, murder and disappearing acts. Where’s the once high flying Peter Muckerjea today? Probably in the same place as the once high flying Vijay Mallya: Trying to figure out how and where it all went wrong. Greed is a strange beast. And instant karma will get you every time.
The bottom line is that MTV in Asia has always been sloppily managed because the business has been run by amateurs. And in this day and age of social media, MTV and every other channel under Viacom, its parent company, are pretty much history. It’s an irrelevant brand. It’s bloody old.
Having had a meeting recently in Singapore with an executive with Viacom and supposedly one of the brighter sparks also looking after MTV, someone should put a bullet in these operations before the rabies spread.
Despite all the promises of what the channel can deliver to a potential client with the financial clout to buy out Viacom for what it would consider chump change, there’s only been a roaring silence from this executive.
Am I surprised? Yes and no. Surprised at the stupidity of this executive not to see the global business potential in working with this client, but then realising that this is MTV, where style and hype over substance has always been its USP.
Someone please give this pretentiousness and time wasting meetings with those without common courtesies and the inability to see business opportunities the bullet.
Then again, being a dead brand, MTV has probably already got the bullet and is just a reminder of how video killed the radio star and social media made a music channel irrelevant.