| 22 Jul 2024
Prem Kumar: Chennai Live to go aggressive digitally in 2014

Chennai Live COO Prem Kumar

2013 for Chennai Live

We have been growing at about 40 per cent for last two years. But this year sales have slightly slowed down. This could be attributed to the overall economic situation. This year we have grown but it has marginally come down to 30 per cent.

We had also increased our price this year which coupled with our focus on branded shows has resulted in a better yield for us this year.

The key highlight of this year for us was to go for branded content which is really paying off well in terms of value for each stake holder i.e. our clients, our listeners and us. This is also because going forward we do not want to completely depend on FCT revenues and event revenues.

We believe that radio should play to its strength. To that extent we are drastically expanding our portfolio to branded shows. These shows are aired once a week for 12 weeks which becomes a season and ‘Vodafone Voice of Chennai’ is one of the branded shows that are going to enter its second season. Since we had a good response for it, we decided to have new seasons for the same. Our current formula focuses on branded shows and we have these under various categories, from real estate to wedding related show and many such shows.

Live properties

We have some new properties for 2014 but as indicated earlier we would like to slowly move away from this as it ends up discounting the rate. The whole idea of getting into events happened because radio being a relatively new medium had to prove its worth and events was a hook. Advertisers too wanted something additional than radio but over the last decade or so radio has proved itself as a terrific medium for listeners as well as advertisers. The time has arrived for radio stations to start looking at creating value on air and the need to earn revenue through radio rather than being an event management company. The revenue received through these events, add to the turnover but from a profits point of view it is not a great model.

Phase III for Chennai Live

As a station and a group we are not that keen on Phase III. As a group it is one of the diversification so we just want to get the formula right and we are getting it right. Probably, we will look at expansion later.

We had a few concerns over the migration which we have sent across to TRAI as comments on the Consultation paper. We have asked questions like what the date for migration is and what would be the fee. We have replied to their questions. The larger point is that we cannot depend on Phase III for migration because we do not know when it will happen. There are chances that it will only take place after the change of governance in the centre. At the same time, the licenses of some of the stations will expire by 2015 so there is a growing need to speed up the whole process. Even to bid for Phase III you need to have some clarity on the migration fee for existing stations. Right now, expansion is not our concern.

Concern for Radio Industry

Radio as an Industry is not making much revenue- both bigger and smaller players alike – commensurate with the investments. We want the migration fee to be extremely reasonable so that it would not impact smaller stations like ours.

Radio industry has progressed but I feel a lot more could have been achieved. The regulatory frame work like license fees, permission to carry news, multiple licenses, more number of stations per city, FDI percentage apart from royalty issues with the music industry continue to be issued. Thankfully some of these issues are getting sorted out in phase III but the biggest issue of license fees along with OTEF continues to remain and is skewed in favour of the big players.

Obviously, after about a decade and more the growth that was envisaged is no way near which means that there are still some structural issues like the ones indicated above. Of course, it is growing but the point is that the growth is not resulting in any profits. There is certain advertising growth and I do not think that we have been able to beat the advertising growth on the television and digital platform. Digital is growing exponential. At the moment, it is not a rosy picture. We hope that it becomes better. We hope that we are able to achieve the growth that developed countries have achieved.

In the long-run, given the current policy framework, I assume only big players will rule and smaller players will not have the leverage to grow and expand. The regulatory body has to be lenient to help maintain a balance.

2014 is digital for Chennai Live

Understanding the demand for digital, I feel that there is need to turn digital. We also believe in the fact that in the digital world there is a need to make our presence felt. It would really add value to a station like ours. The reason is simple because other stations are focused on music. On a serious note, for music you do not have to play any particular radio stations as one can hear it on any other station. The digital platform will yield more profits to Chennai Live as our content is unique compared to our counterparts. This platform will allow Chennaites across the world to get some local content on the web. Along with that Chennaites traveling will be able to get access to episodes they missed. Talk stations like Chennai Live will reap much more benefits as compared to any other station. We did not focus on digital this year but we will in 2014.

Now-a-days, websites are out-dated. Apps and social-networking platforms are dominating so we will be aggressive in these spaces. It will help us target a lot of Chennaites in United States, United Kingdom, Singapore and other countries as there is a demand for content back home so we would like to cater to such audiences.