Growth has been muted since demonetization: Abraham Thomas, Radio City

Abraham Thomas, CEO, Radio City on bringing India’s first video FM, localisation strategy, delay in the measurement and when does he expect categories like real estate and government to pick up in advertising among others

e4m by Madhuwanti Saha
Updated: Nov 27, 2017 8:44 AM

Things are looking interesting for Radio City which added another dimension to radio with the launch of Video City on November 17. It’s the beta launch of India’s first video FM, a platform that allows listeners to consume FM in a video format. We speak to Abraham Thomas, CEO, Radio City on India’s first video FM, revival in radio industry, the year 2017, being local, delay in the measurement and when does he expect categories like real estate and government to pick up in advertising among others.


How did you conceptualise Video City?There is a lot of interesting surround programming. People want to consume content around the main one. What we have done is we have added another dimension to Radio City. It’s a sneak peak to all the fun that’s happening in the radio studio. So now you can see the star interviews that you earlier used to hear. We have conceptualized this as another dimension to radio. It enhances the power of radio by giving listener an added experience. When there’s music we divert you to YouTube. When it’s not live we play our archived content (around 200-300 star interviews). There is enough live content.

How are you planning to expand it beyond Mumbai?
This is beta launch where we have started it with Mumbai. We will soon be adding other cities. We will add more content from other cities as well. Once the technical gets sorted in the next two weeks we will take it to other cities. We just need to put cameras in the other market. We will start with the metros. We will take the Hindi-speaking market first (Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat and UP). Then we will move to south.

How are you planning to monetize it?
Eventually we will be able to monetize it once people want to be part of different shows, interviews and formats within radio. We run 47 web radio stations which carry audio ads. We are already doing it. We have ad networks and our own sales team selling it.

Radio City’s profit declines 11% at Rs12.73 crore in September quarter. What’s the reason behind the sluggish growth?
Growth has been muted since demonetization, RERA followed by GST. Within that we have done better than the industry in terms of growth and profitability. But the market is slightly subdued currently. We continue to remain optimistic. For radio the big categories are government, retail and real estate. The former is not spending and hugely down compared to last year. With elections coming up it gets even smaller. Real estate is down because of RERA. Two categories are degrowing so automatically the overall pie comes under pressure.
Categories like automobile, banking and financial institutions and telecom are growing.

With 2018 to be the pre-election year when do you expect political advertising to pick up?
Election money is still subdued. So far till last minute they are still figuring out their strategy and partnerships. Earlier if they were spending for four weeks now they do it for two weeks. State elections are not big as of now. But by 2019 it will pick up. 2018 looks like a big year.

How has 2017 been so far? When do you see government and real estate to start advertising?
It’s been positive. We have shown growth and maintained profitability. But at an overall level it has been subdued. Real estate, retail and government are down. The other three categories are growing. That’s what keeping us positive.Real estate looks ready to start advertising as the initial problems have been sorted. Government will pick up now as they have an entire year to announce their achievements. So once these two categories pick overall it will pick up.

How has regional advertising taken off in the recent past?
Earlier 75 per cent used to be national advertising and 25 per cent local. Over the last few years that balance has shifted. Now it’s almost 50-50. Local categories of advertising have started using radio. Interestingly the national advertiser use radio as a local medium. So we get different creative for different markets from the same advertiser.

How have you localized your content?
Each of the market is completely local. There is very little national content in each of our city. So Jaipur is different from Udaipur. Both talent and content are local. We do research to figure out the key content drivers in each of those markets. That’s how we programme.

When can we expect the measurement to come in place? What is delaying it?
Industry is talking and meeting different research agencies to finalise the methodology. I am assuming very soon we will have an alternate measurement. We are optimistic it will be sooner than a year.
Accuracy is a function of cost. You have to take methodology of technology-based measurement to do mobile and manual diary once in a quarter. Somewhere top cities need to get measured more on a continuous basis. The next round of cities can be done on a monthly basis, the next to next round on a quarterly basis. You need to have a plan that makes it worthwhile. It has to be affordable. Advertising agencies must contribute a small share while broadcasters contribute the bulk of the share.

What is the feedback from the Hindi website of Radio City?
The growth in internet is coming from Hindi with 30 per cent along. The numbers are huge. We have seen Hindi website take off from day one.

How have stations in tier II and tier III cities been performing?
Tier-III markets have done exceptionally well. We are ahead of the curve already there because the markets have taken to the change. Earlier there were three or four existing players. Suddenly a new player has come in and brought in freshness and innovation. It has driven both time spent listening and reach.

How are you planning to scale up your on-ground properties?

We are adding multimedia aspect to all our properties. For instance, Gig City was only radio. We have now taken content and put it on digital. Now we have got it on ground.
Digital is becoming very big. There are discussions with platforms and partners who have shown interest to show it live. We are clearly spreading it across mediums. We want to scale up the properties itself because they build our brand and give advertisers multiple vehicles to ride on. We are able to customize each of them.

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