Pepsi plans global hit with chart show

Pepsi-Cola is hoping to hit the right note with consumers as it embarks on a global roll-out of its TV chart and radio shows.

Unlike the BBC, which looks on overseas sales of the Top of the Pops (TOTP) brand as an extra revenue stream, Pepsi is concerned only in using the Pepsi Chart show to drive sales of the drink. Hence the move to provide a localised version of the programme for the Middle East (MW February 25).

Andy Woodford, a director of Pepsi’s UK music agency Music Innovations, says: “The Middle East is a strong market for Pepsi. We are looking to roll out the Pepsi Chart everywhere that Pepsi has business.”

The weekly TV show has been commissioned by Middle Eastern satellite broadcaster MBC and is due to be aired in Saudi Arabia, the Lebanon, Egypt and United Arab Emirates in April. It will be made in London and Beirut, with up to 90 per cent of content being localised.

An Arabic customised Pepsi Chart is also being set up for each of the countries because of the lack of relevant charts.

The plan is that the screening of a Pepsi Chart TV series will coincide with the launch of a Pepsi Chart radio show in the same region. And Pepsi will run promotional activities around the launch in what is one of its key markets for soft drink sales. PepsiCo’s fourth quarter results published on February 1 reported the drink’s “four per cent international advance reflected strong performance in China, India and the Middle East”.

Localised versions of the Pepsi Chart show have also been commissioned by TV3 in Denmark, TVN in Poland and TV2 in Hungary. In Finland, TV4, which has already bought the UK version of the Pepsi Chart show, plans to commission a localised version by the end of the year. The show’s original format is televised in Sweden, Sri Lanka and Ireland. Pepsi will have final approval on all the deals these agencies negotiate.

Overseeing the global roll-out of the Pepsi Chart show is Leslie Golding, former TOTP brand manager at BBC Worldwide. He was poached by Gem, the commercial arm of GMG Endemol Entertainment, which through its subsidiary Initial produces the TV format of the Pepsi Chart.

Golding says: “The first thing we need is a broadcaster which is allowed to, and prepared to, carry advertiser sponsored programmes. Not all countries have one so the BBC may be able to sell its shows to more places than we can.” However, Golding says BBC Worldwide would not have the resources to put together a similar deal for TOTP.

Managing director of music consultancy Music And Media Partnership Rick Blaskey says: “Pepsi is showing the value of owning a music property as opposed to dipping in and out of music by sponsoring an event.”

Like Pepsi, BBC Worldwide is making inroads in Europe. Last Wednesday it announced a deal with Rome production house Einstein Multimedia and the BBC’s production team to make a series tailored for the Italian market which is scheduled to air later this year.

A TOTP set will be created in Rome as a platform for localised content and an Italian presenter will record links for UK and International acts at Elstree. The deal is similar to the one the BBC show has with German broadcaster RTL, which transmits the programme to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. TOTP is also seen in France, New Zealand, Japan and Australia.

Graham Samuels, general manager global marketing of BBC Music, maintains the market is big enough for the Pepsi Chart show and TOTP which first appeared on the network in 1964. But he says: “What appeals to broadcasters is the longevity of our brand.”

Like Pepsi, BBC Worldwide plans to roll out a radio version of its TV show. It is also looking at the possibility of launching the TOTP magazine, which has an audited circulation of 436,906 per issue, into the German market.

But Samuels is cautious and warns against comparing the TOTP brand and its merchandising with the success of the Teletubbies, which earned BBC Worldwide 23m for the year 1997/8, of which programme distribution accounted for 11 per cent.

Laurence Munday, joint managing director of Drum Phd, says: “I think the Pepsi brand and chart show have been hugely successful in the UK. Pepsi’s show will probably be more successful abroad than TOTP because of the lure of Pepsi as a global brand and the greater marketing support the drinks company has at its disposal.”

But Sanjay Nazerali, managing director of youth consultancy Marketing Depot, asks: “What is the relevance between Pepsi and the chart? There’s an audience synergy, but why is a cola bringing you music? There’s a lot more to it than merely shoving a brand on the chart.”

What all commentators are agreed upon is that the global market, which can accommodate numerous music channels, is certainly big enough for the two programmes TOTP and the Pepsi Chart show. But the race will be on for airtime on terrestrial, as opposed to satellite, stations, which attract more of an audience, more of the time.

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