FM radio: Standing the test of prime time

By , agencyfaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | November 21, 2007
Unlike television, FM radio has no fixed time band that all stations can follow to get the largest listenership share. Radio prime time can vary from city to city, day to day and weekday to weekend. We try to solve the prime time puzzle

The best & #BANNER1 & # time to play is prime time. That's when a large chunk of your listeners/viewers are tuned in to your station or channel. This is one universal rule that is applicable to most broadcasters. On television, almost all popular programmes are lined up between 8 pm and 11 pm, which is television's prime time.

Does radio have a prime time, when it has the maximum listeners tuning in? Do best performing day parts vary from station to station depending on the target reach, or does prime time vary from one city to another depending on the lifestyle or culture or infrastructure in the city, or does prime time vary from weekdays to weekends when people have more leisure time, but also more alternatives to choose from? In search of answers to all these questions, agencyfaqs! talked to industry experts.

"The prime time for every radio station could be different from other stations depending on the listeners the station is catering to. It can even vary from one city to another; for example, listeners in Ludhiana would not be awake till late night to listen to their favourite station, but the young working population in Bangalore would be listening to stations till very late," says Mona Jain, executive vice-president, ZenithOptimedia.

There are figures to prove how cities differ in terms of radio listening habits. According to RAM, on an average day, Bangaloreans are the first to tune in to radio as compared to Delhiites and Mumbaikars. The listenership in Bangalore starts as early as 6 am and the best performing day parts in the city are between 6 am and 9 am. But in Delhi, the evening time band, 7-9 pm, is the best performing day part.

"It's shocking data as a young city such as Bangalore, which is known for its nightlife, graveyard shifts and pub culture, is least expected to get up early in the morning to tune in to radio stations. One factor could be graveyard employees returning home early in the morning and listening to radio in their cabs. For us, our prime time is 8-10 in the morning and 6-10 in the evening when most of the people are stuck in traffic jams on their way to work and on their way back. This has a lot to do with average commuting time to and from office, which is very long in a city such as Bangalore," says Geoffrey Thomas, national programming director, Radio Indigo, which operates in Bangalore and Goa.

In terms of time spent on the FM station, Bangalore leads the list among these three metros, with 1,092 minutes per week. In comparison, in Mumbai and Delhi, the time spent is 845 minutes per week and 796 minutes per week, respectively.

Anil Srivatsa
Radio Today's COO, Anil Srivatsa, says, "Meow has no primetime. 'My Time' is the prime time on Meow. For women raising kids, we have a show on motherhood, 'Mama Meow', which usually goes on air at 3 pm - now that's the prime time for moms who are more free then. For a working woman who comes back late at night from work, 'Meow Between the Sheets' is prime time. Our every show is designed to target a particular age group."

While Radio Today is sure it's not a matter of prime time as the station concentrates on appointment listening rather than browsing, there are stations such as Big FM that cite their prime time as the breakfast shows, when the station is heard by most of their target listeners.

Tarun Katial
"We have one prime time for all our stations, be it a metro city or a Tier I town. We concentrate on our breakfast shows, which draw maximum ears throughout the day," says Tarun Katial, COO of the ADAG-owned Big FM. According to Katial, his station gets great hits in the evening as well, but mornings are still the peak time for the station.

There is also a difference in the weekend versus weekday listenership trend. For instance, in Mumbai, the average time spent listening to the radio on a weekday is the same as that spent on the weekend - 123 minutes per day and 122 minutes per day, respectively.

But in Delhi, the average time spent listening to the radio on weekends is higher than that spent on weekdays (117 minutes per day and 108 minutes per day, respectively). In Bangalore, the time spent on weekends is considerably lower than that on weekdays - 160 minutes per day and 148 minutes per day, respectively.

"People tune into radio mostly on weekdays when they are going to work or once they are back in the evening. During the weekends, people spend their time watching movies, shopping and are always on the move, breaking mundane weekday routines and radio is part of that routine," says Jain. That is probably why many FM stations play non-stop music during weekends - because people prefer less talk.

Although most FM stations claim that their listenership remains the same through the week, prime time changes from weekends to weekdays. "In cities like Bangalore and Mumbai, especially for stations like ours which target younger listeners, prime time shifts up a bit from late evening to early evening as most youngsters in metro cities spend weekends partying rather than listening to the radio at home," says Thomas.

Jain sums it up rather well, saying, "There is no prime time like the present time if you are on radio."