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Rewind 2012: How it all began with Phase III

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Rewind 2012: How it all began with Phase III

If I was to look back and narrate a story in Ted Mosby’s style of how the year 2012 was for the radio industry, I would start by saying, “Kids, I’m going to tell you an incredible story – the story of how it all started with Phase III”.

While radio industry commenced its 2012 journey with an aim to conquer, it encountered a number of seriously funny issues, for the industry somehow ended the year almost exactly where it started. A number of reasons caused a prolonged delay in the e-auctions making Phase III Ted Mosby’s wife, for whom everybody is waiting eagerly right since season one of the sitcom.

2012 was financially a flat year for the industry mainly because brands and marketers were careful on spending in advertising due to the difficult market situation. The festive season was an exception, wherein the market bounced back and almost all players were operating on full inventories. In spite of the economic slowdown, the industry saw almost five per cent growth than 2011.  According to CII-Ernst &Young study ‘Poised for growth’, the industry’s revenues have been estimated at Rs 14.2 crore for 2012-13. 

Waiting for Mrs. Ted Mosby…
Phase III has been around the corner for almost two years now but could not materialise due to various legal implications. The e-auctions were scheduled in 2012 and thus, the GOPA migration deadline was set on March 31, 2012. The deadline was then postponed to June 30 and later further postponed to December 31. According to the latest notice, the GOPA migration deadline is June 30, 2013.

Phase III delay turned out to be the biggest miss, for all the resources, time and money spent by the radio players on their plans after expansion were stuck. The delay affected the advertising package offered by broadcasters, for they were not able to deliver the promised mass reach, directly creating an impact on the revenues. Content differentiation was also hampered as radio players were banking on multiple frequencies to provide variety to listeners.

While Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) have been reviewing issues such as TRAI’s recommendation to introduce inter channel spacing from 800 KHz to 400 KHz, request to appoint an e-auctioneer and no charges for migration of FM Phase II licenses to Phase III.

However, as the year ends, the industry is still facing various concerns. Some players wish that the ministry changes its policy and announce a quick roll-out timeline, some expect quick signing of GOPA agreement so that the ministry has six months to evaluate interest levels and pricing before the bidding starts.

Despite all the chaos, broadcasters wait patiently for Phase III as Ted Mosby’s kids wait for their mother. ‘How I met your mother’ will always be incomplete without Mrs. Mosby’s arrival and so will radio be without Phase III’s arrival but the story STILL continues.

Barney’s bro code
If we look at the bigger picture, sameness of content dominated the industry, apart from pockets of experiment and differentiation here and there. While bollywoodisation and contemporary music ruled the charts, various radio players took refuge with talk radio to create differentiation. Shows such as Yaadon ka Idiotbox, Big Memsaab, Bhabhi ka Show, etc. tried to break the clutter and create a chord with the audience.

Radio players also attempted to break the clutter by changing their editorial policy completely. For instance, Radio One changed to an exclusive English music broadcaster in Mumbai and Delhi, Red FM Bengaluru switched to an all Hindi station from its prior regional nature.

Broadcasters genuinely attempted to create ‘Legen – wait for it – Dary’ changes in content.

Suit up…
With most industry players having withdrawn from RAM and IRS still providing snapshot data, the measurement system across radio is in a pickle. The industry had been unhappy with RAM for reasons such as lack of transparency, inconsistency of numbers and use of diary method. Some of the broadcasters withdrew from RAM in mid 2012 stating that the measurement body is not paying any heed to their problems. However, RAM’s point of view completely differs from the broadcasters’ say. RAM officials pointed out that while the industry is pointing out faults in the sample size and diary method, everything had been pre-approved by them in the very beginning. RAM also pointed out that the measurement body has been trying to get the broadcasters together to work on a solution but were greeted with a cold shoulder. Though AROI made measurement its big agenda this year, we still have to see constructive development in the area.

While the industry plays a blame game, radio measurement still suffers. Is the industry looking for a solution or are these merely Barney’s ‘Suit up’ commands that nobody listens to? 

Lucky stroke
Advertising activity cross the radio platform was slower than expected. According to GroupM’s TYNY report, radio saw a growth of one per cent in terms of advertising expenditure in H1. H2 was expected to exhibit better figures as the industry witnessed one of the brightest festive seasons.

Despite the slow fiscal growth, advertising volume has increased on the radio platform across various categories. Real estate, retail, FMCG, auto and education were some of the heavy spenders on the radio platform. 2012 also witnessed a number of local advertisers coming on board on radio, balancing the revenue during the year. Broadcasters are also coming up with a number of options along with on-air advertising such as on-ground activations, digital plans, innovative campaign formats, etc. to meet the marketers’ needs of a complete package.

The year would have been indeed a difficult one if the market wouldn’t have bounced back in the festive season. Owing to the market scenario, brands went all out across all medium, thus rustling advertising activity on radio back to normal.

Look back and you feel that everything went wrong because of Phase III. Look closely and you realize…well NOT everything was wrong. In the milieu of all the ‘problems’, the industry managed a close to ‘legen-dary’ year. While things would have been a lot more stable and progressive if the auctions were on time, the story still manages to continue with pockets of entertainment here and there.

The theme for Rewind 2012 is Different Strokes. All write ups on various aspects of the Indian media, marketing and advertising industry, will be around an international TV show or sitcom that best described the year that was

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