With the conclusion of the first round of FM Phase II biddings for category A+ and A cities, experts feel that radio lovers of metro cities may expect a much wider choice over and above the stereotype Bollywood music based Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) stations, though Talk Radio may not be arriving in India as yet.
“We can see channels of different genres appealing to the diverse tastes of listeners. Some channels may be focusing on old Hindi songs, some on Pop music and some may play English music only. Now on, channels won’t be aiming at large market shares, rather they would look for a profitable market share. Success in the Radio space will now depend on identifying and establishing in one’s own target segment,” said Sunil Kumar, MD, Big River Radio (India) Pvt Ltd.
Agreeing with Kumar, media consultant Nisha Narayanan observed, “Programming will be king and the key to success in Phase II. There will be more scope for experimentation in content, though drastic changes are unlikely. However, players will be almost forced to have a different positioning for the sheer apprehension of looking like clones of each other.”
“There may be some English music channels, youth-based channels, while some channels may cater to the 35-50 age bracket, which has hitherto been ignored. Some channels may have a mix of both Hindi and English music. It all depends on how one packages it. It just has to be politically correct,” Narayanan added.
Commenting on whether there would be a talent crunch with so many radio stations coming out at the same time, Kumar said, “Initially there may be some problems, but like in Television, where there was not enough talent available at first and subsequently it attracted new talent, for Radio, too, new talent will emerge. Radio will generate huge employment opportunities for local talent, as they are compulsory in Radio as only local talent can fit into the cultural matrix of smaller towns.”
Several local players like HT Music, Radio Mid Day, etc., have tied up with foreign radio majors. When asked how foreign partners could help local radio players in India, Kumar said, “They can provide the much needed technical know-how, suggest on interesting formats. They will assist more in the areas which are culture-neutral.”
However, Narayanan felt that some specific content could transcend the culture barrier. “Though everybody knows that Radio is a very local medium, one can see some glimpses of foreign content on matters like food, sports, Hollywood news, etc.,” she said.
When asked whether the enthusiasm that was found in the first round of bidding could be expected in the forthcoming lower category cities, Kumar said, “ I expect the biddings to happen in the same proportion for smaller cities. The variations that were found in the first round would remain in subsequent rounds as everybody would bid according to his own plan.”
Narayanan, however, anticipated some kind of moderation in the variations in next rounds of bidding. “The variations will be there, but it can’t be worse. With lots of indications coming up from the first round of bidding, it will be more rational in the next rounds,” she felt.
When queried on whether some C and D category cities might miss the FM Phase II revolution, Nisha agreed with the apprehension. “This is quite likely to happen. Even if many of those cities get some FM stations, all the frequencies are unlikely to be used.”