RadioandMusic
| 19 Jan 2018
Harshad Jain: "We have not grown the way we would want to, but there was some silver lining around the dark clouds"

HT Media Radio and Entertainment business head Harshad Jain:

2012 for the radio industry:

It was a tough year and has not been easy for radio stations, while Fever FM still managed to do reasonably well. But the industry situation has not been very good. The growth was unfavourable so the industry was slow.

Key changes:

The significant change was that the advertisers did not spend the kind of money that was expected of them because of the larger economic situation. I think the country was still going through a kind of recessionary phase and therefore it has impacted the ability of advertisers to invest behind their brands. And thus the advertising and media industries got affected. That has been a very critical change from my perception.

Growth of Fever FM:

While the year was pretty challenging for the industry, it’s been quite challenging for us as well. However, we have done better than the previous financial year and some key reasons for our growth have been that we pursued our client integration strategy in a big way. We also went ahead and made tailor-made customized programs for our clients. The second reason was that we drove a lot of inorganic growth getting a lot of new advertisers on-board Fever FM. So that’s the way we have kind of coped up with a tough back-growing year.

Milestones:

The key milestones that Fever FM reported last year were that our Delhi station sustained its leadership at the absolute level. Now we are 20 per cent plus in terms of our listenership scores, which makes us an extremely dominant player in the radio space in Delhi. In Mumbai, from a distant number five we are now straddling between the third and second position. And if you look at the target group which is between the age group 20-34, Fever FM has been a consistent number one or two for many months in Mumbai. The time spent listening to Fever FM, has been the highest amongst all the radio stations in the city of Mumbai. In Bangalore, we became a Bollywood station and it is one of the largest non-Kannada stations in the city. If you look at the time spent listening, and include all the Kannada stations we are now at number three. So that has been very good news as we have also added over 300 new advertisers to our network, and have been able to take up our prices. So it’s been a bit of a mixed bag; we have not grown the way we would want to grow but there are some silver linings around the dark clouds, and we were able to manage.

Market growth of radio:

I think it would be a very low single digit growth or rather it can be termed as flat. It did not grow much.

The market has been tight and customers have not spent that kind of money for the growth in the industry to happen.

Brands recognizing radio’s potential in advertising space:

A lot of sectors have now opened up to advertising on radio, so the medium is surely witnessing large brands recognizing its potential. Today if you look at the kind of brands that are advertising on radio, it is a very diverse lot. If you see, we have got brands ranging from real estate to global ones like FCUK, Pepsi to Raja Biscuits and more. So we have got all kinds of brands, right from top-end global brands to very strong retail-focused brands. Radio is clearly seeing a lot of traction from the point of view of advertising. 

Programming trends:

It’s been an extremely good year for us from a programming perspective. We launched two new radio dramas, one was Gandhi and the other was Bal Gopal, which was around Lord Krishna. Apart from that, for the first time ever in the history of radio we experimented with what is called reality on radio. This was projected  through our campaign on AIDS; we also went ahead and did a lot of activities around the Tihar Jail inmates where we helped people who were serving sentences to get released. We also did a lot of reality stuff around Valentine’s Day. Apart from that, we ran a campaign on naming a road after Sachin Tendulkar. A lot of stuff happened and we also launched some new shows like Zara Si Life in the night band in Delhi, which did extremely well. We also added some humour segments on our stations. So it has been a very busy and totally effective year as far as programming is concerned.

Challenges ahead for radio:

I think the biggest challenge is going to be with the economy still under pressure. The advertising spends can and will be curtailed and therefore it is important that the ambience or the entire feel good factor returns back so the advertisers can spend more. To me, the biggest challenge is that if the economy doesn’t grow then obviously the ability to invest in young brands will go down.

Niche programming vs. Mass:

The kind of initiatives that we did, while I would not say they were niche; they were premium in terms of imaging and mass in terms of returns. So we did things, which definitely struck a chord with the listeners. So we did that kind of programming and that’s the reason we are number one in Delhi, and have the largest listenership brand in Mumbai. So we are the number one brand in terms of time spent listening, which has been a great achievement for us.

Music vs. jock talk:

I would say that there has to be a comprehensive strategy. While music is important, but apart from music what also needs to be done is to create differentiated programming by virtue of the things that we have done like reality on radio and getting into radio dramas.

Successful shows:

Our number one show in Mumbai is the evening show hosted by Sidhu, who is the number one RJ there. That show has done extremely well. Even RJ Anuraag Pandey in Mumbai has received a rousing response for his show called Picture Pandey. All our shows in Delhi continue to be at very solid number one positions. Nitin’s is the number one show and we also launched Zara Si Life, which is a night show where people talk about their personal issues and more. In Bangalore we have become the number one bollywood station so a lot of those things worked very well for us.

On-ground activations:

We have our entertainment business, which has done reasonably well. We got in Noddy to come last year, which was an international act. Now we are gearing up to get in Ben10, which is a very famous cartoon character from Australia. Apart from that we have also done various initiatives like Fever tree official, youth nexus and more. So, essentially, yes, we are getting into a lot of mass based events, which have a large interest as far as listeners connect is concerned. What helps us is that by virtue of being a radio station we have got the ability to connect with our listeners on-ground for these kinds of shows.

Plans for 2013:

Well firstly, we expect that the industry should do well. We got our strategy in place and I think we should pick it up from where we left. So I think our key strategy will focus on being more client-centric, have customer focus and drive execution.

Learning lesson:

The biggest learning lesson has been that I think radio as a medium has got far more to offer than what it is envisaged. But the biggest learning is the medium requires a lot of evangelizing right now.

Issues surrounding RAM:

Right now there is a Radio Audience Measurement system and that is the most scientific method which is currently available. So till the time that is there, that is what the industry will follow.

Needs of radio:

What we require is evangelizing the content. Radio needs to reach to more number of customers. Otherwise it’s a medium which is doing well and is poised for reasonable growth in the times to come.

Programming changes in 2013:

Early days, but I think what we are doing, we believe in it and it is making a lot of sense. And I think we will consolidate the space and re-define a few more spaces as and when we get to it.

Expectations from FM phase 3:

I think FM phase 3 should come in soon and that will be a step in the positive direction for the broadcasters. We have our strategies which will be divulged once the policy is implemented.