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News |  21 Apr 2014 17:46 |  By RnMTeam

Bollywood on Sandalwood's private FM Radio land rocks

BENGALURU: The FICCI-KPMG Media and Entertainment Report 2014 (M&E-2014 Report) says that the radio industry outperformed all other traditional media segments by clocking a growth of about 15 percent in 2013. The report further goes on to say that clients are being forced to re-evaluate their media mix as their advertising budgets are constantly under pressure. There has been a tendency to shift focus from nationwide pure brand building to more tactical, local, focused promotional targeting. This has played in radio's favour as it enables local reach to advertisers increasingly looking to target specific audiences at affordable pricing.

Be it a product launch, realty, education institutes, restaurants, jewellery brands, theaters, movie and movie audio launches, the elections, events, artiste performance radio is now an important part of a plan for any media planner.

Private FM Radio in the Garden City

Over 65 per cent of the population of Bengaluru, the garden city of India, is non-Kannadiga. Compared to the denizens of the other major metros, Bangaloreans spent 1273 minutes on the radio per week in 2013, up from the 1225 minutes per week in 2012. The closet competitor in terms of minutes per week on radio, Kolkattans spent 1006 minutes per week in 2013, down from the 1083 minutes in 2012 as per the M&E 2014 report.

The city was the FM testing ground for the government back in the beginning of this century (in 2001) with Radio City (91 FM then, now 91.1 FM) kicking off the first private FM radio station in the country. Those were the heady days of great jocks like Sunaina Lal and after her Vasanthi Hariprakash (the original Sunshine girls of private FM stations in the country) and the programming was mainly Bollywood music with a bit of international music sprinkled across. Rohit Barker (now with Indigo), Darius Sunawala (now with Fever), Suresh Venkat, Jonzie Kurian were some of the male RJs' that were on Radio City around the time the station commenced broadcasting.

After FM was opened up and more and more licenses issued, the initial radio newcomers to Bengaluru all tried to ape the Radio City model and met with a mixed bag in terms of success. Big FM came in and changed the equation by announcing that it would have Kannada programming from the start. A lot of the then existing stations and the ones that followed later switched to, or started with Kannada programming, including the first movers, Radio City. The only exception to the rule was Radio Indigo (91.9 FM), a station that continues to play international music even today.

Most of the stations were poor photocopies or carbon copies, imperfect clones of each other. Pedigree, backing and experience showed through and suddenly there are now four non-Kannada private radio stations among the seven private FM stations in the city. (RnM) can speak about three of these non Kannada stations in Namma Bengaluru (Our Bangalore). This does not in any way belittle the other Kannada programming players in the city, be it Big FM, Radio Mirchi or Radio City - they have found their own niches and are probably very comfortable and growing along with the Bollywood/international programming stations in the city.

Let's look at three of the four non-Kannada programming radio stations in Bengaluru.

Fever (104 FM) hunted for an identity by experimenting with Bollywood and then Kannada before returning to Bollywood or Hindi music, while Red (93.5 FM) turned to Bollywood music from Sandalwood music a short while ago, and of course the afore mentioned Radio Indigo (91.9) that is one of the few international radio stations in the country.

Hence, for a North Indian, non-South Indian, or just a music lover, Bengaluru has a choice of three stations that have really great programming and great jocks. Adding to the radio aficionado's palette are All India Radio's (AIR) intermittent offerings of Hindi and international music, and some of their jocks and the music that they play are also quite interesting to listen to. AIR's FM radio stations in the city are Amrutvarshini 100.1 FM (devotional music); FM Rainbow 101.3 FM (Kannada, Hindi, English) and Vividhabharathi 102.9 FM (Kannada, Hindi).

Basically there is no dearth of choice and one of the best times that a Bollywood/international music listener can have is the morning four hours between 7 and 11 AM – it is often difficult to choose between Michelle and Nathan on Indigo, or Mad Mornings with Shraddha on Fever or Disha Oberoi on Red FM. The jocks grab the listener's ears attention, and often I find myself still riveted in my car after having reached my destination to listen to these great RJs' conclude a pitch. I have observed people switch between these stations just to hear the jock talk rather than listen to the music.

And the options with great RJ's on these three stations continue throughout the day and even night with retro music played by jocks like Rubina and Sriram Sullia on Fever, Melodee Austin, Shagufta and the Rock Show with Joey D on Radio Indigo, retro music by Niladri on Red FM. Of course the entire day has other great jocks like Julius Sharma (Red FM), Punitha and Sindhu (Fever) on these radio stations and their radio offerings always accompany me during my travels by car. Many of the visitors to Bangalore that I have interacted with, have been all praise for the Khanglish (a bastardized term for a language that is a mix of Kannada, Hindi and English) these jocks dole out.

As mentioned earlier, pedigree, experience and backing of strong and successful media groups have made these radio stations a must for the media planners and the advertisers. The run up to the current elections saw all the three major contenders – The Congress, BJP and AAP have high decibel jingles on all the three stations. Recent Bollywood movie launches saw the two Bollywood stations tying up as exclusive music partners.

The pedigree

Radio Indigo is just two stations in the country, but is backed by a group that runs some of the most successful channels in Mallu land – Asianet News, backed by industrialist and politician Rajeev Chandrasekhar. The group also runs Suvarana News (Kannada) and has a Kannada newspaper, among many other business interests, besides having or having had direct and indirect holdings along with the Star Network in the Asianet Network in Kerala and the Suvarna Network in Karnataka.

Fever FM has just four stations in India, and is backed by the very successful HT Media which publishes the Hindustan Times and Mint newspapers that most North Indians are familiar with. Fever has also found a mention in an episode of the Big Bang Theory, besides which the Virgin group is reported to have a stake in it.

Red FM – now that's the real biggie – 47 stations across the country and backed one of the largest media and business groups in the country that includes the Sun Network (which has the most successful television channels in South India), publishes newspapers, owns cable networks, DTH platforms, is into film distribution and owns and operates an airline, amongst others.

The future

Bengaluru offers a cosmopolitan launch platform for most products. Time and again, when I have had discussions with brand managers at product launches, most have mentioned these three stations as a mandatory part of their media plans. With the M&E Report 2014 predicting an 18.1 percent growth between 2013 and 2018 for radio and a lot more licenses to be released during phase III, these three stations will definitely enjoy a sort of a first mover advantage and there is no reason why they should not grow faster than the industry average, given the fact that they offer some of the best programming mix in the country. Bollywood and international music in Sandalwood's capital is certainly set to rock even more over the next few years.