2018 saw radio pick up pace with new stations in tier II, III cities

The medium saw moderate growth on the back of aggressive advertising in digital, retail and sports categories   

Year Ender 2018

The year 2018 saw the radio industry managing to stay firm despite the economic disruptions caused by demonetisation and GST. 

With the Phase III auction of radio licences significantly increasing the reach of the medium, several players of this industry are upbeat about its growth. Legacy stations like Radio Mirchi and Red FM amongst others rolled out stations in tier II and III cities this year. Radio Mirchi had 38 stations in Phase 3, in places like Akola, Bharuch, Durg, Jhansi, Mysuru, Puducherry, Siliguri, Ujjain and Warangal. 

A look at the factors that defined the year for radio:

Moderate growth
Radio witnessed a moderate growth on the back of new station launches despite demonetisation and GST, said Nisha Narayanan, COO and Director, Red FM. While Red FM launched new stations in Jammu, Dehradun, Nanded, Dhule and Muzaffarpur this year, Radio Mirchi rolled out stations in 14 cities like Guwahati, Akola, Bharuch, Mysore, Jhansi and Puducherry. 

“Growth has not been aggressive but with new stations, markets and frequencies they have had very good growth. So, stagnation has come in some legacy markets but growth has been good outside the metros where people are more receptive towards engaging with the medium,” she said. 

Vineet Singh Hukmani, MD and CEO, Radio One, pegged the growth around 9 per cent. “Overall, the industry growth has been between 8 to 9% and this has largely come towards the end of Q2 and  Q3, where Q1 and Q2 were only marginally up,” he pointed out. 

According to Asheesh Chatterjee, CFO, Big FM, the radio broadcasting space witnessed around 6 to 9 per cent growth in 2018. Post demonetisation and GST, growth has returned to medium from August and October-November-December has seen a growth of around 15 per cent (similar to 2016), he said. “Ad ex was largely getting fragmented because of the increase in the number of frequencies.”

He also attributed the growth rate to advertisers testing waters with new mediums like Free-To-Air (FTA) channels, digital and cinema in the last two years. But they have realised the value radio offers, in terms of innovation, programme ideation, content integration, localisation and clean environment, he informed.  “They understood that radio is the best medium to increase incremental reach. It offers an extremely unique as it’s far more clutter-free and trusted,” the COO said.

Aggressive stance in digital, retail and sports

The year also saw digital players across categories like e-commerce advertising more aggressively on the medium. For instance, international OTT platform Amazon Prime Video India used radio to promote their latest original Mirzapur. “Earlier the digital wouldn’t spend so much on radio. But they have started experimenting with it which is encouraging,” said Narayanan. She added that the retail industry has also picked up tremendously. “In the smaller markets (where we have launched) like Patna, Surat and Chandigarh, business largely comes from retail. They are more buoyant about customising and campaigns. When I say ‘organised retail’, from the regional point of view they have picked up as well.”    
Sports is a sunrise category for radio, Narayanan pointed out. She hopes to see this continue in 2019 as the year is lined up with multiple properties like World Cup and IPL, among others. For instance, for Hockey World Cup, Pro Kabaddi League and IPL, radio promotions were in full swing. “Sporting events (in India) are looking at spending heavily on radio.” Like Chatterjee, she also felt more faith has been placed on the medium and it is being utilised in a ‘much better way’.   

Integration with digital

Like every other medium, radio players have been innovating and integrating their content with digital for their on-ground properties. Radio One simulcasts their international stations online on 1cast.in through which they have been getting relatively ‘more engagement with high-end phone users’, as shared by Hukmani. 

Narayanan couldn’t stress enough as radios are being sold from a 360-degree approach. “We have to put out our content on digital as it’s an extended arm. Putting it on digital has seen a higher growth. Simultaneously, it has given us monetisation opportunities. So it’s another revenue stream,” she emphasised.

2018 saw radio stations experimenting with platform-agnostic content. For instance, Big FM’s BIG Golden Voice was a digital-led search activity to discover talent from the start. Chatterjee explained, “When client finally buys it (content solution) he can amplify on ground, air and digital. As we go ahead more content will start becoming platform-agnostic as more of these audio advertising options increase.” 

Hukmani added, “We have also built tribal communities on social media for our unique audience based on their interests in international travel, Hollywood, international music, global sports and global business. We use the data from these to help our advertisers target better.” 

Hukmani pointed out that digital is a means to enhance the engagement of their audiences. On the revenue he mentioned, “Revenues from the same get integrated into the advertising package.  A large section of audiences still tune into FM radio versus digital streams.”

Meanwhile, radio also saw key people movements with few coming back for a second stint.

Reliance Broadcast Network Limited (RBNL), which operates private FM brand Big FM, appointed Abraham Thomas as its Chief Executive Officer in October. He comes with more than two decades of experience across print, radio, TV and digital in India, China and South Asia. He has worked with Radio City, RED FM, Indian Express, Sony, Astro Broadcast and MTV. 

Ashit Kukian returned to Radio City as CEO. He replaced Thomas who had stepped down in August. Kukian was President and Chief Operating Officer at Radio City from 2005-15. His leadership, industry insights and operational expertise had strengthened the radio station’s performance in the industry through traditional and non-traditional revenue. 

In June, Radio City promoted Kartik Kalla as Chief Creative Officer. With a media career spanning over 20 years, Kalla has been associated with the station for over nine years having previously held the position of EVP and National Head, Programming, Marketing and AudaCity. 

One of the latest stations Magic 106.4 FM appointed Apeksha Mehta as the Station Head in July. Mehta had earlier worked with popular brands in the entertainment industry like MTV, Zee TV and Zee Cinema. She had also worked with Amazon Bangalore, with the Amazon Seller Services team and took care of Marketing, PR and special projects for Amazon Sellers. 

In June, Big FM appointed Tarun Katyal as Business Head – Metros for increasing volume in building strategic partnerships. After his successful stint of two years at the organization, Katyal rejoined the BIG network to lead business associations for key markets and scale up the inventory. Earlier in April, the station had senior leadership appointments of Shipra Srivastava as National Marketing Head and Soela Joshi as Associate Vice-President, IP. 

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