Television

Radio listenership growth slowing down in metros

The message is loud and clear: growth of radio listenership in the two metros of Mumbai and Kolkata is slowing down. Even Delhi is seeing single-digit growth.

Mumbai has seen a marginal 0.7 per cent quarter-on-quarter rise at 5 million while Kolkata grew 1.14 per cent at 4.24 million.

Delhi beat this trend with listenership jumping 8.1 per cent to stand at 6.23 million.

This is the latest findings of the Media Research Users Council (MRUC) commissioned Indian Listenership Track (ILT).

The MRUC listenership data takes into account the age group above 12 years. The field work was conducted between 17 February and 28 April, 2007, covering a sample size of 4500 in each metro. The research firm uses the day-after-recall (DAR) method.

What is particularly disturbing is that listenership is tending to stagnate in the advertisement-rich market of Mumbai. FM radio operators promote their stations heavily in the Mumbai market.

Radio Mirchi Deputy CEO Prashant Panday contributes the overall slowdown to the absence of differentiated content. "The listeners can not differentiate one radio channel from the other. There is need for us to provide them with a varied programme mix. Niche radio station is required to widen the listenership base."

Agrees Red FM COO Abraham Thomas, "Segmentation of content is the only solution for speeding up listenership growth."

AC Nielson director client service ND Badrinath, however, attributes the slow growth to no adequate efforts from radio broadcasters to 'shake up.' He explains 'shaking up' as aggressive marketing and brand promotion. This is despite new players entering into the marketplace, he adds.



How the players stack up?

In Mumbai and Delhi, the big gainers are Radio City 91.1 FM and Radio One 94.3 FM. While Radio City has seen a 19 per cent quarter-on-quarter rise of listeners in Mumbai and 3.6 per cent in Delhi, Radio One's listenership has gone up 23.8 per cent and 10.7 per cent in these two metros. Both these broadcasters have no operations in Kolkata.

"Despite having no marketing actvities, our growth is relatively stronger. After the shift of Radio One's frequency, there was a huge set back in our listenership. But we have come back," says Radio One VP programming and brand Vishnu Athreya.

Radio Mirchi, however, stays at the top. In Delhi it has 3.65 million listeners. Red FM lags behind at 2.11 million while Radio City is at 1.66 million.

The gap is narrower in Mumbai with Radio Mirchi having 1.97 million listeners followed by Radio City at 1.85 million.

Radio Mirchi, however, has lost a good amount of listenership in Mumbai and Kolkata. The number of Radio Mirchi listerners in Mumbai declined from 2.23 million to 1.97 million (11.73 per cent fall). In Kolkata, Radio Mirchi lost 16.94 per cent from 2.53 million to 2.10 million listeners. But in Delhi it has achieved a growth of 4.5 per cent.

Admits Panday, "We have recognised the decline, but we never look at a single city data. We are the largest network and with the widest coverage. One reason for the dip could have been because we overplayed on cricket during the World Cup. Nobody was really interested after India's exit. Listeners basically want music from FM stations."

Big 92.7 FM, a late entrant, has something to cheer about in Mumbai with a quarter-on-quarter growth of 31.1 per cent (1.22 million). But the disturbing trend is in Delhi and Kolkata where it has slipped by 8.2 per cent and 14.5 per cent respectively, according to the ILT data. Delhi, in fact, is one market where it has still to make a major impact with 0.6 million listeners.

Big FM COO Tarun Katial dismisses such conclusions, "I am not aware of any such data. We do not subscribe to MRUC. I am waiting for the RAM ratings from TAM Media Research which will use the diary method. Only then we will get a clear picture."

A big gainer in the Delhi market has been Red 93.5 FM which has seen a 17.5 per cent rise. While in Mumbai it has gone up 8 per cent (1.56 million), it has shed 1.4 per cent in Kolkata.

Industry observers, however, feel that this may be a temporary setback. Listenership can expand in the three metros with heavy marketing, they say.

And many, like Katial, are waiting for the diary radio measurement system before they come to any hasty conclusions. Till then, they would like to believe that they are growing radio listenership in the three metros.

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