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FM battle hots up in Mumbai

03-October-2002
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FM battle hots up in Mumbai

Radio Mirchi is soon going to launch a mega game-show Mirchi tambola. Says Prashant Pandey, COO, Radio Mirchi, "It's a real engaging game-show based on traditionally played game of tambola in India. It has been beautifully adapted to radio format and the prizes there are going to be the tune of Rs 50 lakh." To begin with, Mirchi Tambola would be launched in Mumbai.

As for now, Win 94.6, Radio Mirchi and Radio City, three mass FM stations in Mumbai have, announced promotions and game-shows involving cash rewards for the listeners. Win gives Rs 1000 per hour, and so do City and Mirchi. City offers a mega prize of Rs one lac every evening. The USP here is Mr Bachchan asking questions at the hour every hour. Mirchi offers three prizes every night- the biggest one - Rs 1 lac.

The activity, though might lead to a lot of fragmentation, would definitely increase the total universe of radio listeners in Mumbai. Says Pandey, "It is a very healthy sign. More the activity in the category - better for its growth. It is very important that all the players are looking at expanding the market."

All the three plan to use media other than radio extensively to promote their contests and promotions. The purpose, as Gautam Radia, CEO, WIN 94.6, puts it, is "to reach a large number of people who do not listen to radio at all, with the hope that we will be able to expand the listener base."

Sumantra Dutta, COO, Radio City, believes that the new game show on the station would work as a definite differentiator. Says he, "With Radio City 91 FM Suno aur Lakhpati Bano, the new game-show, we are clearly trying to break the clutter in the mind of listener, induce new sampling of Radio city 91 FM, and provide value addition to the listener." He also hopes to reach more retailers, media planners and brand managers.

To what extent can a game-show or promotion increase the radio listenership? "Hugely," says Pandey, "Our earlier contest 983 Kismat khol de increased radio listenership base in the city from 48% to 55%, and among radio listeners in cars, it increased from 68% to 82%."

Agrees Radia, "On-air game shows and contests are tried and tested audience pullers the world over. The stakes of contest, the probability of winning and ease of participation determine how successful a contest actually is. However, a radio station cannot entirely depend on contests to build listenership and loyalty. The success of a radio station hinges on its ability to play right music, achieve the right programming mix and maintain high production values."

Media fraternity agrees that it is a move in the right direction. Says PRP Nair, Senior VP, Media Direction, RK Swamy BBDO, "Basically, the stations are looking at increasing people involvement through interactivity and rewards. However, the important thing is to sustain the audience, and that completely depends on menu they are providing. Real test will come when the promotion is over."

Punitha Arumugam, COO, Madison, though agrees that promotions are the need of the hour, as far as FM radio is concerned, is not really sure if all of them will work. Says she, ""Me too does not normally do too well, for example the KBC look alikes that were launched on other channels, or the performance of repeat episodes of KBC. Too much of the same thing is likely to make audience lose interest. So, stations will have to find more and more unique tactics to keep the audience hooked."

With all the three mass channels in the city launching their promotions at more or less the same time, chances of audience fragmentation are very high. Besides, listeners might move from one station to others in search of prizes. Says Nair, "Fragmentation is very likely. Quite a few people will participate in all the three. Then, maybe, they would decide on a station after sampling it once or twice. Current promotions would definitely lead to migration. Radio's committed audience has all but eroded with the advent of C&S television. The main purpose right now is to bring the audience interest back in radio as a medium and create a base of listeners."

Will these promotions see more brands flirting with radio? Arumugam is positive that they would. She says, "Yes, most advertisers in the country are looking at routes that will 'shake the consumer' into noticing their brands - these game-shows, therefore offer "more than a regular spot on FM. Advertisers are, therefore, likely to respond more positively to these ideas than a regular spot buy option. Secondly, these ideas also help stations as the fence sitters (advertisers who are wondering whether to advertise on FM or not) are likely to be more tempted to try the medium."

However, Nair feels that cost per listener would have to come down drastically for radio to become a viable medium. Says he, "If you currently look at visibility and delivery, radio is not cheap. Ad rates will have to come down. The stations bid at a ridiculous high rate, and hence such high ad rates."

If the stations succeed in acquiring more listeners through these interactive promotions and retain them, cost per listener will definitely come down, and FM might start making a lot more sense to the advertisers.

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