Radio war for cricket eardrums commences

MUMBAI: It was a programming strategy that could be overlooked only at the cost of being left out. And FM radio stations in the city have obliged by getting bitten by the cricket bug.

Three of the five radio stations in Mumbai have announced elaborate programming in preparation for the World Cup, although the privilege of a live commentary that lies in the domain of news, has been denied to private FM players. Most programming is in the form of short one to 1.5 minute capsules, enough to hook the viewer between songs. While some are plugging merchandise as prizes for contest winners, others are baiting with cricket trivia, call in shows, and of course, the SMS route. Radio Mirchi and Go are yet to get drawn into the cricket web, or are perhaps adopting a wait and watch policy while the others go public with their ideas.

Cricket thus has become the next big programming leap for the fledgling radio stations after radio versions of Kaun Banega Crorepati filled the airwaves in October last. The game shows on four of the five channels had prizes upto a lakh rupees being offered on a daily basis. 

For cricket, Millenium Broadcast's WIN 94.6 has drawn up distinct "interactive intensive" promotions, and a clutch of shows that hope to cash in on cricket fever. Two of the shows, claims CEO Gautam Radia have never been done on radio before. Radio Cricket is an actual game played live on-air. Two teams of one person each get to face one over with two wickets in hand. A cricket based question comprises one ball, and an incorrect answer a wicket taken. The team with the most runs wins big. The promotion runs for a period of six weeks and the actual games take place on every Sunday. 

Cricket Trivia will run every hour from 8 am to 8 pm every day until February 7, and will consist of questions that test the cricket knowledge of listeners. The station has created a wealth of merchandise that can be won as prizes. 

Although details are not forthcoming just yet, the station also plans to launch more cricket related shows after 9 February, apart from regular radio jockey updates, and early morning match wraps. Needless to say, SMS, the latest technique to keep a pulse on listener response is being pressed into service. 

Win may have something to crow about. According to Radia, "We've just been ranked #1 in the listener loyalty index, recently surveyed by ORG Marg. Our World Cup programming also marks the marketing potential of radio being taken to a new level." 

Radio City has a cricket rating board, GaGa over South Africa (a quiz show), Sidhu Stop That (a contest on completing Sidhuisms!), Cricket in Swing (Facts on Cricket), Fun Chanting (Call in with a chant for your team) and Score Board (info and updates on the latest scores). 

RED from the India Today group is the only one who has thus far promised its own person in the field, India Today sports editor Sharda Ugra, who RED spokespersons say will be giving regular live updates on the happenings on the field, getting the closest they can to a commentary. Ugra apart, RED's lineup also squeezes cricket dry. There's Know your Team - a profile of each team in the running for the Cup; World Cup records, recent form, strengths, weaknesses, odds of winning and so on; Learn Your Lingo - A take on Mad magazine's "What they say and what they mean". Young Turks - profiles of promising new blood across teams. Simply not Cricket (humour segments), Old Turks - profiles of the veterans who could possibly be playing their last World Cup, My team for the cup - Sports people giving an educated opinion on their favorite team to win the cup and why, Spouse interviews of current team members - wives or girlfriends of the team for South Africa have their say; Celeb Wishes, '83 - World Cup team's family golden moments, a 30 day countdown, score updates and expert updates.

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