The UEFA Euro Cup 2008 has reached an exciting stage and has kept football lovers glued to TV screens throughout June. There have been detailed coverage in the print media as well – both English and vernacular dailies. The Internet, too, has been seeing a fair share of Euro Cup excitement. However, most FM players have mainly ignored the action on the field, unlike the high-decibel activities around the IPL T20 Tournament. Why have the FM players been so cool towards the UEFA Euro Cup 2008? exchange4media finds out.
Why are the FM stations silent?
Vehrnon Ibrahim, Nation Head Programming, Radio One, admits, “The simple truth is that Euro Cup is not relevant to the majority of Radio One listeners. But if there was any station that could do Euro, it would be us.”
Arjun Singgh Baran, Station Director, Big FM, explained, “The reason why radio is basically silent on the whole game is simply because of lack of interest among the listeners. There is no mass appeal for the game, unlike cricket. But once that starts to happen, we will give equal coverage to football.”
When asked what it was that the FM stations feared, Naval Toshniwal, CEO, Tomato FM, replied, “FM stations fear not the advertiser, but the listener. Unlike in the metros, C Category cities like Kolhapur and Sangli are not exposed to international football as much as they are to cricket. The content will not have a mass appeal.”
Amritendu Roy, Business Head, Friends FM, is blunt when he says, “We are not allowed to cover the Euro Cup 2008, and this is the plain truth as of now.”
Are there any exceptions?
While most FM players are shying away from football, My FM and Radio Mango are some exceptions in the FM industry.
My FM has been airing match updates of the previous day’s play every morning. My FM’s Harrish M Bhatia said, “Since matches happen late in the night, we have match updates on the Euro Cup during the morning drive time shows. Highlights and final scores are talked about by the RJs.”
When asked if the championship has had any takers in India, Bhatia said, “Sports tournaments provide us an opportunity to appease the fan following, and the Euro Cup definitely has many takers. We have many listeners who are happy about updates and we are definitely tapping into the hardcore football fans. Our listeners have appreciated our efforts and that means a lot to us. As long as the excitement over football keeps building, the station will definitely benefit in terms of listenership.”
Ravi Nair, Director-Programmes, Radio Mango, said, “Kerala is a football crazy state. We have several segments and contests running across all our stations. The main contest on right now is the prediction contest, called ‘Goal Friend’.”
He further said, “In Kerala, particularly in the northern parts, football is far more popular that cricket, so we have been getting a phenomenal response. The Euro Cup falling in the middle of monsoons will definitely get us more listeners, since people tend to be home bound a lot more. The Euro fever ensures us higher levels of listener participation in our contests and interactive segments.”
So, has India as a market come of age and is looking beyond cricket, keeping in mind the Commonwealth games in India in 2010? Said Vehrnon Ibrahim, “I think with IPL, cricket has come of age on a day-to-day basis, and I for one am very excited about it. As for other sports, obviously sports channels have brought them closer to us Indians, but it is going to be a long time before we are tuning in to American Football. Let’s face it.”
On whether India’s absence in the game is the reason for football not getting adequate coverage, Fever FM’s Neeraj Chaturvedi said, “Sure, India’s presence does add a different flavour to the sport. You tend to root for your team. Having said that, there is a developing franchise in India for football and tennis, and even newer sports like Formula One.”
When asked why the FM players were being partial to the game, Ibrahim said, “Radio One mainly covers cricket, it’s what our listeners want. If they wanted something else, we would provide it, but in terms of sport, cricket is it.”
Naval Toshniwal admitted, “Yes, we are being partial to the game. But we are here to play what the audience wants to hear and not to promote any game. So, we have to be partial towards the listener and not the game.”
So is there a solution?
Nisha Narayanan, Project Head, SFM, noted, “Along with globalisation, economic progress and greater media exposure, all international sports are gaining popularity in India, especially football. The advantage of FM is that being a local medium, we can focus greater attention on football crazy states like Kerala, West Bengal and the North Eastern states, while wooing audiences in other regions.”