The Hot Seat, Rebecca Batties, MTV

Published in The Music Network


The General Manager of Music & Comedy for MTV Australia & New Zealand, Rebecca Batties, tells TMN of future plans.

So, what’s news at MTV?
We’re in a position of transformation at the moment around music. Our head of programming Janelle McCarthy has left and we’re looking for someone new to take over. Where something like that happens, it really gives you an opportunity to look at what we’re doing with music on the channel, and what the channel represents. We’re also launching Local Produce, which is an opportunity for us to really get behind Australian music in a way that is meaningful and consistent.

OK, let’s look at Local Produce. How does it work, and what are its goals?
We choose an Australian act – it might be a breaking act or an existing act. And we really put all the might of MTV behind it, across every platform – TV, online, mobile. It’s not about dropping parachutes on things. It’s about creating a project that everyone in the company is behind, that the labels support and that we consistently show across the channel over a period of ten months, beginning in January 2012.

So who will decide which artist and song to champion?
MTV executives will choose. Labels will submit their preferred acts to us and we will choose one a month, which means ten acts throughout the year. We will shoot songs — we’ll probably shoot three songs for each act. We’ll put behind-the-scenes stuff online and on mobile, and we’ll play the video on the channel.

Will there be a one-off administration fee?
There’s no fee. We just choose the act and then really get behind it. How will you critique them? It’ll be across many different areas. Whether it’s the music, or whether we think it timely at that point. We’ll look at the artist themselves, accessibility to the artist, and their ability to perform, because we’ll shoot three songs with them.

This comes very soon after Triple J launched its Unearthed initiative on the 24/7 digital platform. Is that a coincidence?
Yes, it’s a coincidence. For us, the artists we will be choosing definitely need to be signed.

Why are you doing this at the moment?
Did you feel there wasn’t enough Australian music on the network? No. This was about us deciding to get behind an Australian act and putting all our might behind it. Rather than just doing it a one-off here and there, we wanted to create something really significant.

What are the chances of taking some of these Australian acts and pushing them through MTV’s global network?
[It’s] absolutely possible. Whoever these acts are, and if they are distributed worldwide, there’s an opportunity for us to really have an impact. The MTV Europe Music Awards are coming up on November 6 in Belfast and we have Gotye and Sia nominated for Best World Wide Act. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare in that category. That’s an example of how acts from Australia really get exposure overseas.

What’s happening in the space left by the MTV Australia Awards?
We have a lot awards shows on our channel: the Video Music Awards, the Movie Awards, the Europe Music Awards. Instead of the [MTV Australia] awards, last year we launched MTV Classic with Slash. We really like to reinvent ourselves, look at what the trends are in the market, and just shake things up. And it meant that we had the ability to spend the budget across a number of different areas. Local Produce is an example of how, instead of doing an awards show, we can put our money into some other areas. You’ll see us do more around music over the coming six to eight months. So there aren’t any plans for another awards ceremony in Australia in the near future? Not in the next 12 months anyway. I can’t see that we’d be doing that.

What are the big challenges for MTV at the moment? Is YouTube one of its big rivals?
In some ways it is. We are playing more music than we have ever played before in this country. In terms of our audience, we do a lot of research worldwide on young people. It’s what keeps us fresh, being able to speak to the youth. As part of this research, we’ve come up with a new position which is about young amazing lives, and how we reflect those lives. We call them Millennials. So, it’s about looking at the things that motivate them for the future around music, around content, about choices they make, about technology. Our goal on-air is to reflect and complement what’s happening online.

What’s the state of the ad market?
I’m not sure if it’s in the doldrums, but there are always challenges across the market when other countries are feeling financial impacts. I believe we have a really strong product and we’re really clear who our audience is. If you’re really clear about your audience and how you speak to them, then advertisers recognise that and acknowledge that if you have similar goals you can reach those people.


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