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Manav Dhanda

Network Programming Head, | 26 Mar 2013

Substantial categories will enter radio only once broadcasters have the permission to air news. In international markets, programming line-up consists of talk plus music and talk is extremely relevant to a consumer’s life. With news and topical information, every player’s offering becomes very unique, whereas in music it is duplication of content. News and current affairs will help every broadcaster take their own stand and create unique superior content. Also, consumers of radio are ready for news content. Our experiments with fictional talk content have been received really well. Consumers are ready for much stronger content. Also, news will help broadcasters create their differentiated voice and thus create loyalty among their audiences.

With over 10 years of experience in media, Manav Dhanda, Network Programming Head, Big FM has done some path-breaking work. In his initial years, Dhanda created a number of famous shows such as ‘Fame Gurukul’, ‘Deal Ya No Deal’ and ‘Thodi Si Bewafaai’. Prior to Big FM, he did a stint with Radio Mirchi. In conversation with exchange4media’s Saloni Surti, he speaks about how Phase III will change the game in terms of content and programming, the concerns on permission for broadcast news and topical information, and a lot more...

Q. How, according to you, will Phase III change the game for programming and content on radio? Do you think it will deliver the promised variety in content, especially in metros which have one or two frequencies left?

The numbers of frequencies do not matter, what matters is who takes the frequency. If the content is thought-through keeping in mind the listeners’ need, it can create a great difference. The television channel and GEC space was well established and offered content. However, when Colors arrived, it recognised the need-gap and offered different kind of content, changing the game for television channels. Thus, the utilisation of a frequency depends on who takes it and the kind of content is created. Unique differentiated content will be better for the long-run. Phase III by itself is about creating differentiation. However, unless news and topical information are not allowed, there is not a lot of things that can be done. Little formats of differentiation can be implemented, but real differentiation will arrive only once news is allowed.

Q. Private FM broadcasters are still not allowed to air their own news bulletins. Please share your views on that.

Substantial categories will enter radio only once broadcasters have the permission to air news. In international markets, programming lineup consists of talk plus music and talk is extremely relevant to a consumer’s life. With news and topical information, every player’s offering becomes very unique, whereas in music it is duplication of content. News and current affairs will help every broadcaster take their own stand and create unique superior content. Also, consumers of radio are ready for news content. Our experiments with fictional talk content have been received really well. Consumers are ready for much stronger content. Also, news will help broadcasters create their differentiated voice and thus create loyalty among their audiences.

Q. RJ mentions and advertising through famous properties have been effective means of radio advertising. However, due to increasing consumer pressure, have these methods lost their effectiveness?

It is not about over use, it is about how one uses it within that space. Brands and broadcasters both need to understand that they need to do everything for the listener’s interest and benefit. When we organised the Total Quartz safety run, the sheer number of people who turned up just for an on-air property showed how much the campaign had worked. Similarly, we organised an antakshri property which was backed by the very basics of music. Simply reading out might backfire. The right kind of integration can never go wrong.

Q. How can a programming team make sure that the content remains objective in spite of the increasing commercial pressure?

Always keep one thing in mind; both the client and the broadcasters want more listeners. Thus, both look out for the benefit of the listeners. Programming teams explain to clients in detail as to how a campaign will be. If the client is still having problems, the sales teams give an example of how the brand’s communication will be integrated and presented to the listeners. Radio programming specialists can speak to the clients. Lower listener benefit can backfire and thus, programming team and the clients need to be very particular about it.

Q. Advertising spends in radio have been declining gradually from the past few years. Do you think a change or revamp in programming can help change the scenario?

A programming person creates content to get listeners on board and a programming change occurs only when a need-gap is felt by the listeners. A programming change is never made with the thought of dollars in mind. One should understand that more listeners imply more revenues and thus, basics of a programme and the basic mindset of audiences should never be compromised while bringing about programming changes. For instance, we went completely retro in our Delhi station because figures suggested that there was a need-gap in the Delhi market as most of the other radio stations offer contemporary music. The change really worked for us, we have been among the top two players in Delhi and were also on the number one for a few weeks. The changes need to be based on the demands of the listeners or the category might suffer on the whole.

Q. Big has been betting big on talk radio, how has it worked for the station? Are there any new formats in the pipeline?

Talk radio has worked really well for us. We have introduced a number of new formats in multiple cities such as Kolkata and Bangalore. In the absence of news and relevant topical information shows, talk radio helps create superior differentiated content. Audience has grown a lot and now expects more than just music and similar ended offerings. Thus, talk radio is cherry on top with good music formats.

Q. Post Phase III, the number of radio stations will go up and hence the competition? What will be Big’s strategies to stay unique in that scenario?

I cannot reveal our strategy in detail, but I will say that we will maintain a local touch. Every station will have independent and individual content backed on the need-gap felt in that particular region. A lot of radio stations sell their brand nationally; we shall, however, give a local touch.

Q. What are your plans for 2013?

We want to gain leadership in all markets and gear up for Phase III. We have launched talk in Kolkata and heavy talk format in Bangalore. We plan to consolidate and utilise them. I do not think any drastic change in content is required.

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