fight's on in real earnest now.
as private FM in the country gets ready for an infusion
of fresh life with government intervention, the
players have begun a scramble for a bigger slice
of the pie. And as there is no standardised measure
to rate the pie with, the war is an open battleground
based on independent studies, dipstick surveys,
listener feedbacks and self promotional exercises.
FM radio, touted as the best thing to happen to
Indian media in a long while, however, is yet to
live up to the hype. It still has housewives and
retired people among its top listeners, is gasping
under the weight of crushing license fees and strapped
by an unwillingness by existing players to develop
the market in the 12 cities it is currently operating
new found willingness of the government to think
about a more profitable revenue sharing model, the
allowing of FDI and possible permission for news
and current affairs (thus far a prerogative of state
run AIR), has buoyed feelings in the sector, but
cautiously. Till the amendments come into force
(expected before the year is out), FM is destined
to be malnourished. Advertising has crawled from
a paltry one per cent of total media adspend two
years ago to slightly over two per cent, despite
aggressive promotional gimmicks and programming
experiments by all the players.
with genres despite predicting doom for FM -
Radio City COO Sumantra 'Sumo' Dutta
most players are backed by hefty media groups, the
losses are beginning to tell. The Millennium Broadcast
backed Win, unable to cough up licensing fees for
the current fiscal, tuned off the airwaves for a
month in 2003, and bounced back only when an unnamed
source pumped in enough money to sustain operations.
At the Ficci Frames in March 2003, a sombre Radio
City COO Sumantra "Sumo" Datta sounded
a chilling death knell to the industry when he said
that a discussion on radio would be redundant next
year unless radical changes were brought in, as
a number of players may succumb to financial pressures.
good lobbying by big media houses and a sympathetic
information and broadcasting ministry resulted in
some of Sumo's fears being assuaged when a task
force headed by Ficci chairman Amit Mitra was formed
and submitted its report by November. The recommendations
brought in the much needed cheer but Sumo says he
wouldn't count his chickens till these are actually
Initiative Radio Track 2003 affirms the keen
fight between Radio Mirchi and Radio City in
for radio stations, in the absence of a standardised
audience measurement system, the fight is out on
the streets, literally, with hoardings proclaiming
each one's number one status. In Mumbai, the Times
group's Radio Mirchi claims number one listenership
status going by readership survey SPARR, while Radio
City smugly points to ORG-Marg's Wave V report which
has placed the station above rivals in listenership,
time bands and varying SECs of listeners. Win, the
underdog of 2002, suffered when it suspended operations
in mid 2003, but has stabilised midway down the
the brainchild of Mid-day's Tariq Ansari's passion
for radio, has obstinately remained niche, while
others went the mass way soon after it became obvious
by late 2002 that Bollywood music was all listeners
wanted. RED from the Living Media Group, is now
fighting the war on a different ground, claiming
that while other studies merely tracked brand recall
of the radio stations, RED was on firmer ground
when it comes to actual listenership of different
the Mirchi brand - A P Parigi
SPARRing though has essentially been between the
hefty lead players Mirchi and City for the total
radio listenership for Mumbai which now stands at
5,144,000 with an average time spent listening of
around 140 minutes. This happened at the end of
2003, when MRUC's SPARR survey put Mirchi ahead
of Star on some counts. While Entertainment Network
director A P Parigi pooh poohed the new Radio City
initiative of bringing half sibling Star Plus' hit
soaps in a radio format, Sumo points to a 60 per
cent increase in number of advertisers as proof
of the success of the venture.
radio channels that have managed to cross-promote
themselves effectively through mass media, whether
in print or on TV, have been able to drive listeners
towards them more rapidly" opines AC Nielsen senior
manager Abhay Sawant. Interestingly, awareness levels
of government owned Vividh Bharati ranks third in
terms of overall awareness, ahead of private players
RED, WIN and GO.
Madison Media, which conducted a dipstick study
in December in Mumbai among 100 housewives in SEC
ABC to understand their impact, revealed that a
large number, when prompted, recalled the new programmes
on Radio City with Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu
Thi topping with 78 per cent recall. Interestingly,
though nearly a fourth of the respondents claimed
to have already tuned into Kyunki at the
time of the dipstick.
Madison chart shows that Kyunki.... has
high recall value on Radio City, without many
actually listening to the show
fight is on in earnest in other metros as well.
In Chennai, Mirchi at 83 per cent is the leader
followed by the Sun Network's Suryan with 78 per
cent share (Initiative Media figures). Bangalore
by default has Radio City ruling the airwaves. Kolkata
has become another battleground with both Mirchi
and Aamar (an independent station) claiming dominance.
While Mirchi claims a presence in 66 per cent households,
ahead of Aamar's 10 per cent, RED's 11 per cent
and Power's 13 per cent, Aamar, in Internet ads,
says it has been 'declared number one in Kolkata.'
Media has taken the fight to a fresh level. Development
and Research Services (DRS) conducted a study in
Delhi and found that high brand recall does not
translate into listenership, and that the average
70 per cent of listeners of a particular programme
are not able to associate it with the right FM channel.
These findings throw the premise of the studies
conducted by rivals right out the window, contends
RED COO Nishchint Chawla. In the absence of a programme
based TRP ranking system, it's each to his own study
right now. The DRS study helps RED in that it puts
Good Morning Delhi as the top rated show, followed
by Mirchi's Hello Dilli with Nitin.
DRS study indicates that RED's show tops the
list of top 10 radio shows in Delhi
who is listening?
the average time spent listening to radio remains
roughly the same across age groups, young adults
listen to more radio than other age groups and spend
almost 160 minutes a day, listening to radio, says
a Nielsen October '03 report.
SECs the time spent listening to radio displays
shifts over time. SEC A registers a drop in the
time spent listening from 152 minutesin round 3
to 135 minutes in round 4. Radio listeners within
SEC C however, have increased their exposure to
radio with time spent listening to radio having
increased from 135 minutes in round three to 155
minutes in the last round.
the advertiser cued in?
FM in its present infantile state may appear a dot
on the media horzon, a miniscule contender for the
total adspend, the sector is slowly being regarded
as the next big boom in the media industry. The
National Readership Survey for 2003 affirms this.
The onset of FM radio has given the radio sector
a boost, with the medium registering a five per
cent increase in penetration. All other media penetration
has either remained constant or - to the chagrin
of the industry - dropped. The NRS findings, coupled
with the recent taskforce recommendations, have
boosted the radio industry morale, bringing in its
wake, a marginally improved ad spend too.
advertising, however, that was expected to grow
at a galloping pace last year, did not, and today,
the largest chunk of advertising, 22 per cent, comes
from other media, prominently television. FMCG follows
with 14 per cent, durables with 12 per cent, finance
with 10 per cent, telecom with eight per cent, while
retail tails with eight per cent, according to Madison.
FM Nishchint Chawla believes more in programme
loyalty than brand recall
says retail has in fact picked up better in cities
like Lucknow rather than metros like Delhi and Mumbai.
Also, as media planners say, most advertisers prefer
to spread their FM monies to minimise risk, in the
absence of reliable research on listenership. RED
FM COO Nishchint Chawla however says that one needs
to differentiate between 'retail' and 'local' advertising.
Local brands can also be large and contribute in
a big way, particularly to Delhi RED's revenues,
says Chawla, with hardware shops and even beauty
parlours coming on board.
though, most research also shows that over 60 per
cent of ads are in the non prime band - afternoon,
while only about 10 to 15 per cent of total spots
are in the hyped morning and evening bands, thanks
probably to the deal structures entered into with
of the victims of the opening up of the radio airwaves
in the country unfortunately has been the state
owned All India Radio, which has been unable to
match the aggressive marketing and sales pitches
of the private players despite good listenership.
The ORG Marg Radio Review in fact states that "awareness
levels of government owned Vividh Bharati ranks
third in terms of overall awareness, ahead of private
players RED, WIN and GO."
show that the unemployed, the retired and the
homebound are the major listeners of FM radio
aside from Radio City's experiments, has remained
homogenous fare across stations. Sporadically, stations
announce contests, game shows, tambola and celebrity
interviews, but staple fare remains Bollywood music
and incessant RJ chatter. Praveen Tripathi, President
South Asia, Regional Director Strategic Planning,
Zenithmedia says, "The ultimate bonding that radio
as a medium will have with its audiences will be
driven by editorial creativity." The message finally
got through to stations in the last half of 2003,
when RED finally got a nod from viewers after roping
in veteran compere Ameen Sayani to host a music
show that has been recently expanded into a four
day show. Innovative measures like interstitials,
RJ mentions and fillers too are being used, radio
ads are beginning to sound original and not the
soundtracks of TVCs. Mirchi has floated the Kaan
awards for creativity in advertising, but its a
slow climb uphill to the advertisers' door.
first year generated barely 220 million rupees in
revenues in Mumbai, while the second year of operations
will take that figure up by an estimated 18 to 20
per cent. Still leaving a huge gap between the nearly
Rs 500 million that had to be coughed up annually
by Mumbai alone.
2004 be better?
many are loath to predict the future, going by last
years' bitter fruits, Parigi seems confident that
the task force recommendations will be accepted
and implemented. In the Entertainment Network offices,
names of two more proposed stations are put up.
Despite Sumo's despondency, Radio City's Lucknow
station too continues to live.
show hasn't stopped for FM. Hopefully, 2004 will
sing a cheerier tune for it.
the fight's all about........
share in the ad pie will grow to six or seven per
cent in four to five years" - an interview with
Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Entertainment
Network (India) Limited A P Parigi