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FM Radio war hots up in Mumbai

22-May-2002
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FM Radio war hots up in Mumbai

Amit Agnihotri

With four radio stations upping the ante, and another one waiting in the wings, market is waiting for signals to unscramble.

With the launch of Radio City in Mumbai yesterday, the market is abuzz with excitement. Agencies and clients are busy evaluating the media and its various stations. And the station heads are busy putting together a veritable package for the listeners, the success of which may lie in differentiation. And if one were to cite reasons for differentiation as a key to success, one would arrive at a logical answer- that the listener would possibly dive in to a particular station only if he is sure of a particular ‘flavor’ that the station has to offer time and again. This flavor can be a concoction of choice of music, RJs and packaging. And though the station managers may not agree, the radio stations in Mumbai today are sounding pretty much the same. A recent dipstick research conducted by Madison Media endorses this opinion.

Station Head of GO 92.5 agrees. "Given the economics, broad differentiation is not possible. We can’t have a dedicated soap station and a talk station. They perhaps are too niche. Surely not a Jazz station!" says Rajesh Tahil. The result is that the same ‘hit’ numbers are playing across the stations. Agrees Tahil, "Yes. Stations today are running on ‘Hit Radio Station’ format." Perhaps with huge license fees and reputation at stake, no one is ready to take a gamble yet. But, if television programming is any learning, ultimately they will have to take risks and narrowly define the audiences.

While it is early days yet, it appears that Radio Mirchi and Radio City would focus on more mass programming, dominated by Hindi film music while GO 92.5 and Win will orient to a urbane, English speaking audiences. "Our core TG is 18-35 Yrs old living in SEC AB households. However, Radio Mirchi is for everyone who is young at heart," says AP Parigi, Radio Mirchi. Radio City management aims to make their station as a ‘Star Plus of radio stations’ clearly indicating the mass appeal. Tahil of GO 92.5 however defines his audiences more tightly. Says Tahil, "We are not mass station. We aspire for educated, well healed, English speaking audience." Accordingly the station has hosts that are more mature, like Anish Trivedi hosting the ‘breakfast shows,’ and plays more English music.

So given the constraints, how does a station sets itself apart. A senior radio industry insider offers an interesting preposition. "Much like most commodities fighting in tough markets, Radio stations will have to rely on advertising and promotions to develop identity and attract listeners," says he. If the glitzy hoardings appearing in most roads of Mumbai are any indicator, stations are realizing this and putting money where the listener is.

And the response has been pretty encouraging. "The response to Radio Mirchi has been overwhelming. Initial dipstick research conducted by IMRB shows that even after launch of Win and GO 92.5, 2 out of 3 car listeners tune into Radio Mirchi. In less than a month, we have more than 25 major corporate advertisers on air," says Parigi

A dipstick study conducted last week by Madison Media has buoyant results for the medium. "Over all FM listenership has gone up significantly. Our research indicates 56% of people surveyed tuned in to FM. Of which, a surprisingly high 70% of listeners said they tune in from home and not just during drive time. Radio Mirchi is the most listened to station," shares Punitha Arumugan, COO, Madison Media. No surprise that clients are willing to try the medium.

So while Mirchi may have strong lineage and earlier FM experience, GO 92.5 may claim to know Mumbai best and Radio City has international learning and format, it will still take lot of ingenuity and ears close to radio sets that will decide the winner. Or Winners, if you may. We’ll stay tuned!

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