Foxtel Head Says Channel [V] Changes Are What Viewers Want

24 February 2016 | 3:24 pm | Neil Griffiths

Figures speak out.

Australian music fans were shocked to hear this morning that Foxtel will shut down the Channel [V] music channel this Friday after 20 years, however Executive Director of Television, Brian Walsh, believes that the changes being made to the station are in line with the demands of its viewers. 

In an interview with theMusic today, Walsh said, "For us, this is a decision that really was taken in view of what our customers and our audiences are telling us."

"It's an evolution really of where music television has been going globally over the last five years," he continued.

"MTV abandoned the music format five years ago, in favour of long form and they're best known as a reality channel now. The Channel [V] brand is not disappearing. We are absolutely retaining [V] Hits which is the number one music brand on Australian subscription television. But the audiences for music television on linear have been fragmenting for some time. There are a lot more options now, particularly for that younger demo, the under '40s market..."

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A statement released this morning explained that from this Saturday, the [V] brand will change to [V] Hits and [V] Hits +2, which will feature clips and countdowns.

"Their [the audience] demand for music channels are clips and not long form," Walsh said.

"We tried long form last year with a number of programs like B430...the audiences just weren't there, they were all watching [V] Hits. It was a commercial decision, a straight-forward decision and it reflects simply how audiences have changed."

While fellow Foxtel music channels including MAX, CMC and Smooth will remain unchanged, Walsh did confirm that long-running presenter Danny Clayton will move on from the network when his contract expires mid-year.

"Simply put, if people want to see a Taylor Swift clip, there's a lot of places they can get them from apart from linear music channels," Walsh conceded.

"What's interesting with Foxtel is that the customers who grew up with Channel [V] have migrated to MAX and Smooth. Those channels are particularly strong and I think they'll continue to be strong because the older demographics are still watching linear television in large numbers. It's simply that the youth market has fragmented across a number of different sources for music entertainment.

"There's a lot of sentiment around Channel [V] and its history. For 20 years it's served Australia incredibly well, but we are not abandoning music television by any means, we are simply answering the market and providing a service that our customers are telling us they want."

Meanwhile former [V] presenter Jane Gazzo believes now is a better time than ever for free-to-air television to introduce a music television show, thanks to the success of the recently-screened miniseries, Molly.

"People can't proclaim that YouTube would kill all music videos as we know it," Gazzo said, adding, "We still have Rage on the ABC and Molly has just prompted calls to get a music television show back on free-to-air and with all of these television stations now popping up…I think if you can have sport on television, you can have music on television. It's not impossible."

"There is a place for all music television and popular culture and to reflect the youth of today," she continues.

"Countdown did that and Recovery, another show that I was involved in on the ABC, did that brilliantly. And yes, people do watch music video clips now on YouTube but it doesn't mean to say it’s extinct. It will constantly evolve and I do think the time is right for a free-to-air television station to pick it up…"

Fellow [V] alumni and current radio host Marty Smiley described the news as "a very sad day for music."

"[V] has always been a fierce fighter for music in this country, new genres, new artists," Smiley said.

"It's just a real shame that musicians once again have lost a platform to get their music out."

A number of music industry figures have also spoken out today regarding the surprising news, including SGC Media Group Managing Director Stephen Green who called [V] a strong supporter of Australian music. 

"It's a real shame to lose yet another media outlet that really was one of the few left which cared about interviews and other content that really gave viewers the opportunity to get deeper into an artist," he said.

"I find it strange that on one hand, the justification from Foxtel is that their music channels have been under attack from YouTube for people's eyeballs, while at the same time replacing the one channel they had that created its own unique content with a 24-hour channel just playing clips which are all readily available on YouTube.

"Having said that, it's not my cash that's been propping it up and we live in a world where if people aren't going to actively consume great musical content, they can't bitch and moan when it disappears."

"I remember when Channel [V] first launched back in the 90’s under the name of Red TV," Wonderlick co-owner Gregg Donovan recalled.

"It was an exciting time back then because music TV was very influential and they helped break many Australian and international artists. I certainly owe them a lot for the support they have given my artists over the years."