PMMAO 2007: Radio: Frenetic action in airwaves as many enter the fray

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The radio sector is rocking. In the last few years, nearly a dozen private FM players have entered the fray giving listeners a totally new experience and also giving stiff competition to the AIR monopoly. Five years ago, the first attempt to roll out commercial FM was unsuccessful because of exorbitant licence fees but the second auction of spectrum and high licence fee structure which was significantly lowered last January.

According to the Survey, ad revenues in radio were Rs 285 crore which was more than twice the Rs 125 crore figure in 2003 and well ahead of Rs 200 crore clocked in 2005. However in terms of percentage ad revenues, it has only two percent but at the same time registered a healthy growth of 42.5 percent. Radio logged the third highest revenue growth rate after Cinema and the Internet.

The year 2006 saw several radio companies setting up shop. Some of these are BIG 92.7FM (Reliance) which broadcasts in nine markets and aims to reach 200 million listeners. Fever 104FM (HT/Virgin) which has been launched in Delhi, playing English-language songs only will be available in the four biggest markets soon. Radio One 92.5FM (BBC/ Midday Media) which has a Bombay station and plays Hindi music will expand to cover the seven-largest cities. Radio Mirchi (Times Group) is now available in 10 of the biggest markets. Radio City (GW Capital), which started in Bombay in 2004, is now available in 18 cities.

Red FM (India Today Group) was launched in Bombay in 2002, and now has stations in Delhi and Calcutta with local content. Suryan FM (Sun Group) has stations in Madras, Coimbatore and Tirunelveli, with SFM stations in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Jaipur.

Further, there are interesting developments within some of the private players. BIG 92.7FM from the Anil Ambani group, is aiming to launch a station in 45 cities, reaching 200 million people, in six months. Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin linked with HT Media, the owner of the Hindustan Times newspaper, to bid for licences in Delhi, Bangalore, Bombay and Calcutta. Fever 104FM, the Virgin station, went on air in Delhi in October and in Bombay this month. Virgin sees its opportunity in a market in which radio attracts only 2.2 percent of the total advertising spend compared with a global average of between six to seven percent.

One interesting development was  the launch of Visual Radio by Radio Mirchi in association with Nokia and Hutchisson Essar.

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Neeta Nair

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