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I Want My MTV Desi, On Broadband Of Course

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Reading, The New York Times’ this morning brought back some memories, of my early days in this country, and perhaps of the early days of the emerging South Asian identity. I Want My Hyphenated-Identity MTV, perhaps the worst headline ever, talks about the pending launch of MTV Desi, a new MTV sub-channel that will be targeting the second generation South Asians in this country. MTV Chi and MTV-K are up next, targeting Chinese Americans and Korean Americans. MTV Desi is going to be a potpourri of Bollywood, British Asian Pop and all sorts of other stuff.

It was back in 1993, when hanging out with then-struggling Dj Rekha, one of the promoters and key proponents of Bhangra/Tablatronica in the US I wondered about a website I wanted to start that aggregated all South Asian related events. We could not come-up with a name, but she pointed out at my habit of saying from “desh” which is like saying, my motherland. How about we call it Desi, sort of like homie! We could, but instead I ended up calling the site It still lives, and I have outgrown it I guess. I started another music website,, which tracked the South Asian music business. On that site, I interviewed Nusrat Durrani, who is now leading the roll-out of these ethnic MTVs.

Looking back, I kinda feel good that the word desi has become such a commonly used phrase, sometime I think much abused. In my attempts to be self employed, I had teamed up with friends to start Masala Magazine back in 1995, but it was to early and eventually went boom. We tried to reinvent the magazine online, succeeded for a while but then the bust got the better of us. The demographics and the advertiser support was not there, and well given that South Asian community communicated mostly in English, the big corporate spenders thought that their ethnic marketing dollars were better targeted at Hispanic community, which is much larger.

This brings me back to MTV Desi!

Well, Viacom is going about launching these channels the wrong way. They are not paying attention to the demographics. In other words, the dollars to support this channel, which is likely to have minuscule viewership, will not be there. It will cost a lot of money to get the channel nationwide rollout, especially in South Asian hotspots like New York, Houston, New Jersey, San Francisco Bay Area, parts of Florida, Chicago and Seattle. These are cities where channels on cable networks are a scarce commodity. In other words, this is going to be one costly mistake for Viacom.

Instead, they should have focused on developing the same content, but show it over broadband networks. South Asian community in the US is very Internet savvy, and have the perfect base for launching a MTV Desi (Broadband.) Broadband is the platform of the future, and it would make sense to use it to rollout niche channels.

18 Responses to “I Want My MTV Desi, On Broadband Of Course”

  1. Om,

    I am not sire if your prophecy has come true. Just saw that MTV desi will stop from tomorrow atleast on DirectTV and will be available on the web site.

    Any other predictions?


  2. thelionking

    its just weird to see how mtv is reaching out to the desi americans, most of whom have a superficial connection with all things desi.
    i guess now that timbaland and dr dre have flirted with bollywood, desi americans can start to shrug off their inherited inferiority complex of all things indian.

  3. S. Patel

    No, I would have to disagree with Om Malik. Actually, there are thousands of young Desi Americans who would be interested in such a channel. The musical needs of these teens have been dim until recently. Singers like Jay Sean, Raghav, and Faakhir have been growing in popularity and have only proved once again the strength of the South Asian community in America. Besides, it would be interesting to have a nationwide rollout, because people of non-South Asian origin could discover a great music culture full of color and life. This is something that truly excites thousands of young South Asian Americans. There is no better time to introduce a channel like this in the American market.

  4. This is a pretty clever idea, and even without too much cash these guys can make it all happen pretty quickly. just streaming videos and soem of that kind of stuff is enough to get them started. perfect idea. lets hope they can execute it!

  5. nope i did not invent the term and never said i did. or perhaps that was too difficult to understand from the story. what i was saying is that it was used for the first time in context of the second generation south asians, first at and since then has morphed into many diffierent uses.

  6. dufus ranwinkle

    You make it sound like you invented the term “desi”. You didnt. My departed grandmother used the term “pure desi ghee” every time she cooked us aloo parathas.

  7. Viacom and other traditional media networks cannot allow their programming to get lose among the Internets (piracy, ya see), that is why they do it this way (for now).