Retro in radio prime time: A risky move or a smart strategy?

Big FM changes gears with 'Suhana Safar', which plays melodies from 1935-1985, at a time band where competing FM players air contemporary music

e4m by Saloni Surti
Updated: Jun 17, 2013 10:15 AM
Retro in radio prime time: A risky move or a smart strategy?

Amidst all the talk of lack of content differentiation, radio players finally seem to have chalked out a plan. While there is no hard and fast rule, major radio players have decided on genre wise time bands so as to make up for the lack of variety.

Thus, morning drive time usually offers contemporary Bollywood content, followed by a mix of songs (ranging from the 70s to the latest hits) between 12 PM and 5 PM, and again contemporary songs during the evening drive time. The night bands are reserved for old melodies.

Big FM has been one of the radio stations to continuously innovate its content strategy. The radio station first brought in talk with ‘Yaadon ka Idiot box’, which was introduced in the early night band. Big FM also roped in big names like chef Rakesh Sethi and actress Karisma Kapoor to cater to a certain sect of the audience. How exactly have these initiatives worked for the network is hard to say in the absence of definite measurement. Nonetheless, these properties have managed to gain enough popularity to create recall value for the station.

Big FM recently announced the launch of their new property, ‘Suhana Safar’, with Annu Kapoor – a show that will play melodies from 1935-1985 with Kapoor as the RJ who will share some interesting behind the scenes facts and stories. The show will be aired from 10 AM to 12 PM in 35 stations in different time bands, depending on the local listener appeal.

On the first sight, Suhana Safar appears as another innovation bought in by Big FM. However, through the show the channel is introducing content from the Golden Era in the drive time in its Mumbai and Delhi markets.

Is it a winning proposition?
While from a content point of view the show is a strategic addition for Big FM’s Delhi station, which offers only retro content, it is a huge change in terms of Mumbai’s content strategy. In all the markets it has been introduced in the most listened to time band.

Experts say introducing new content in prime time in metros is riskier than other markets as most brands look at investing in the medium in the drive time slots to reach out to the maximum number of audience and get the highest level of stickiness.

However, Ashwin Padmanabhan, Business Head, Big FM explains that the show has been already discusses with their clients. “We have spoken about this with our advertisers in the last couple of weeks and we have received very good response. We should have long term responses on board.”

While Suhana Safar could be a welcome change for the time slot as most stations play contemporary, it can also back fire as the listeners are in sync with the newspaper format of morning shows that gives city updates and fresh music. In the current content strategy listeners are used to magazine and feature formats in the evening when they are usually heading back home.

Launching a new content format on radio is never easy due to reasons such as limited inventory, inability to demonstrate RoI and slow recovery of effective rates. While Big FM seems to have a strategy in place it will be very difficult to determine the performance of the show as there is no standard measurement for the medium. It appears to be a risky strategy right now, nonetheless is a wait and watch game.

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