The private FM sector is hoping the government will not delay in holding the next stage of the Phase III auctions this year. With the first phase of the auctions a tremendous success for the government, it would make sense to see them auction out the new frequencies as quickly as possible though no intimation has yet been received by the FM sector, said operators we spoke with.
Both Prashant Panday, MD and CEO of ENIL-Radio Mirchi as well as Harrish Bhatia, CEO of MY FM said that though no official statement has been released by the government, the auctions should take place in the next few months. The head of another regional FM station also opined that communications taking place with the government suggest that the auctions would take place “anytime soon”.
Any delay, though, could also be helpful to operators who have already invested a lot of money in the first stage of the auctions.
"I would imagine so. Broadcasters have paid monies upfront in the first batch. They are now focused on starting ops. To that extent, there will be pressure on companies. However, the stations in batch 2 are smaller and the outlays required are also smaller. So I think the batch 2 auctions should happen as soon as possible”, said Panday, when we put the question to him.
On the point of when we can expect to see the new stations becoming operational, Bhatia opined that it could happen as quickly as in 4-6 months. "Stations should start becoming operational from May 2016. But it all depends on how BECIL delivers," opined Panday.
Meanwhile, operators have expressed enthusiasm over the government's announcement as part of the railway budget that it would be looking to tie-up with radio channels for in-train broadcasts.
“The announcement of introducing FM Radio at railway stations is a feather in the cap for the radio industry. It is a pioneering step taken for radio to reach out to a larger audience and garner a high response. About 68 per cent of FM listeners have radio enabled mobile handsets and consumption of FM during commute is very high. This would be an opportunity for all FM Stations to provide customized entertainment to the travellers,” opined Abraham Thomas, CEO of Radio City 91.1FM.
Tarun Katial, CEO at RBNL, which operates BIG FM also agreed that this is a good opportunity for radio operators.
"People want entertainment when they are traveling long distances. There is no form of entertainment as satisfying and universal in appeal as music. So it’s a very good decision. The government should also allow special radio services at big railway stations where thousands of people assemble every day. I don’t think the revenue opportunity is very big. It’s more of a service that the government should provide keeping the comfort of travelers in mind. Revenues will take years to start," noted Panday.
Bhatia also agreed that policy makers are realizing the potential of the medium and such initiatives would help boost the sector. "This move can help radio players earn additional revenue by aggregating audiences. The modalities of the model are still unclear but yes we would be keen to partner the govt. on this," he said.
Harshad Jain, CEO of Fever FM, said if the move comes to fruition, it would be good for the industry as any new touch point for radio would have an overall positive impact.
“It is a good move as it will help radio in spreading. But if it is specially packaged content it might not make much business sense for stations. FM is about clapping with two hands. Entertainment content being played in trains will not create engagement opportunities. However, it could be that passengers might like the content and then go back to their hometown and tune in to the station again,” opined Jimmy Tangree, Head, 91.9 Friends FM.