RadioandMusic
| 25 Oct 2020
FM round up: South - A year of opportunities

2008 turned out to be a year of opportunities for FM operators south of the Vindhyas, as many players launched their stations during the year. 2009, say most, will be a year of consolidation.

An interesting aspect of the Bangalore market that the initial RAM listenership survey had mapped as a high morning listenership and high out of home listenership TG, was the conversion to Kannada. With the exception of a Radio Indigo, which stuck to its premise of international music, several players preferred to target masses by going the Kannada way.

The Sun Network led SFM launched its stations across Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in 2008. Educating the masses about commercial FM stations was a challenge, believes SFM Kerala station head Girish Babu. Kerala had always been an All India Radio (AIR) dominated market, so we have to educate listeners about the FM concept. Even today, there is a chunk of listeners who tune into AIR for their news content. It would work for our benefit if independent news in allowed in the FM space....

Echoes SFM Programming Director (Karnataka) Sathish Chandra, Our stations were in the concept setting stage in Gulbarga, Mysore and other places, but the audiences accepted us fairly well....

SFM also adopted marketing gimmicks like giving out gold coins to every listener who calls the radio station in the initial months of its launch for almost all its stations.

Chennai Live (another station that launched in July) station head Prem Kumar says, We have positioned ourselves differently from the other stations as we have adopted the talk format. It had been an enriching year for us....

Fever's Bangalore station head Anjali Paul, It was an interesting year for Fever- Bangalore as our radio station underwent a format change this year. We changed our music content from Hindi and English to complete Kannada as we believe Kannada has the potential to be aspirational....

Advertising

Advertising in the south Indian market predominantly comprises local retailers with a good chunk of national corporate ones.

Talking about his stations in Mysore, Gulbarga, Bangalore and Mangalore, Chandra says, I would say we are positioned at a 50- 50 per cent ratio when it comes to advertising, with both retail and national occupying a fair share. We are still educating the advertisers about the potential of radio as an advertising medium and it will take two to three years from now for the scene to change....

Referring to the Kerala market, Girish Babu opines, Kerala is dominated by regional players and the advertising ratio would be 60 per cent of regional and 40 per cent of national advertisers....

Radio stations in Tamil Nadu enjoy a mixed bag of national and regional advertising, adds Chennai live station head Prem Kumar states, Radio advertising currently constitutes about seven-10 per cent of the total advertising pie in TN. Our main focus in 2009 would be getting the advertisers showcase their premium brands as well along with their mass brands....

SFM Andhra Pradesh Programming head Shobhana says, Our advertising picked up this year because more stations were launched and advertisers looking out for pan Idia presence thought it viable to advertise on our station. Also, the sales tie up with Red FM has added to our advertising volumes....

Owing to the global recession, the amount of advertising expenditure has reduced but the south Indian market seems to be still intact. Avers Fever Bangalore station head Anjali Paul, This quarter saw some amount of the aftermath of the global meltdown in radio advertising. Although radio is economical compared to other mediums, radio alone can't create a brand, it can build on a brand that's created by other media. Our Bangalore station is still receiving a fair share of advertising with a healthy balance of both, national and local retail....

Agrees Shobhana, Although recession has hit most of the sectors, radio seems to be unaffected at the moment. There hasn't been a change in the advertising yet and we believe advertisers will realise the potential of radio as being economical and targeting the same set of listeners....

During 2008, many advertisers and clients pulled their budgets into radio down south and in 2009, the amount of money to be invested in radio would increase substantially, believe many radio operators.

Stumbling blocks

Radio stations in Kerala had to bear with problems of frequency overlaps in their Thrissur and Cochin stations. An industry insider says, radio stations in Trissur enjoyed the advertisers' attention as their frequency extended till Cochin, but there was a 50 per cent fall in the advertising revenue of Thrissur stations after the launch of stations in Cochin. Similar problems have been seen in parts of Tirunelveli and Tuticorin in Chennai.

Although frequency overlap persists to be a problem, this doesn't seem to affect the listenership. As Girish Babu puts it, Frequency clashes occur between our Thrissur and Cochin stations but our listeners can tune into any of these stations at a given point of time....

For Fever, there were problems of a different nature. Says Anjali, With our station turning completely Kannada, we had to chase the regional music labels to acquire music rights for the songs, but other than that, we had a smooth sailing....

Hello FM CEO Rajeev Nambiar refers to the frequent power failures in Chennai as a major setback this year. During the first half of the year, we had power cut issues across all our seven stations, which got solve subsequently....

Having taken the responsibility of running a small station like Tirupati, Big FM Andhra Pradesh cluster head Ashwin Padmanabhan says, We launched about two years ago and suffered manpower crunches in the first year, but in 2008, we were well equipped and were working towards consolidating our stations....

Brand activations

Stations relied on marketing and brand activations on a 50- 50 per cent basis. Brand activation was mainly a marketing gimmick by the stations to increase their brand recall value and stations went that extra mile to make their birth felt in the market.

Paul adds, In the coming year, Fever Bangalore would be banking more on promotions, interactivity with the audience on air and pushing Kannada to be a local language among the youth here....

Avers Padmanabhan, After the success of 'Chipakke jeeto' contest last year, we would be entering the new year with this contest again. Also, we would planning major brand activations as a part of our brand building exercise....

In 2008, FM as a medium was tested in many south Indian markets. The launch of the stations down south were satisfactory and the operators are hoping that the take off also goes smoothly. The market and client base looks optimistic in the coming year.