A few days ago MTV Desi, a music channel dedicated to the Indian diaspora in the United States shut shop, after just a year on air! In fact MTV has shut down as many as three channels targeting Asians  – MTV K and MTV Chi – for the Chinese and the Koreans in America. A sad ending to MTV Desi, which launched with such fanfare and optimism.

“MTV Desi launched with the kind of explosive charm that is so MTV, so New York, and so deliciously desi. An enormous screen in Times Square, New York, launched MTV’s salute to South Asians with flashing images of music videos from top South Asians artists.”

The idea for the channel emerged from the fact that Indian Amercans have a distinct identity. Nusrat Durrani the General Manager of MTV explained it in a nutshell:

If you’re South Asian American, you have a specific mindset: you’re bicultural. You are American- you grew up here, you went to school here, you have an American sensibility. But you also have a very strong emotional connection to your country of origin. Split between many cultures makes you inherently different than someone who doesn’t share that.

So why did the channel go off air? It had an audience. Too niche an audience? Naturally, it all boiled down to money. And MTV seems in no mood to wait until the channel does make money. It has cut 250 jobs across the three ‘Asian’ channels it has axed. An excerpt from a bland company statement:

Unfortunately, the premium distribution model for MTV World proved more challenging than we anticipated in this competitive environment. As a result, MTV has decided to shut down its linear MTV World operation.

Apparently, these job cuts represent about 6% of MTV Networks’ global work force.
One can’t help but wonder why MTV did not give more time for the channel to succeed. After all it was a brand new concept and new ideas take time to take root. We know that it took longer for MTV to make money in India! But then MTV saw India as a long term market and here there are numbers. MTV obviously does not see MTV Desi as a money spinner anytime in the near future. MTV Desi wouldn’t have seen the numbers anytime in a hurry. The Indian American community in America is still small as compared to say, the Hispanics. But the lack of success could also be because the channel was not adequately distributed. There have been media reports that the channel did not reach viewers in cities like New York. And the company has acknowledged that the ‘premium distribution model’ was too hot to handle.