Radio City plans to add four more digital radio stations

By Raushni Bhagia , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | July 03, 2013
On its 12th anniversary, the channel shares its plans to expand to about 20 more terrestrial stations in Phase 3 of private radio auctions.

Radio City, one of the oldest private radio channel in the country, has completed 12 years of operations. Beginning with its first station in Bengaluru in 2001, it has expanded to 20 terrestrial stations. The channel plans to expand to about 20 more stations in Phase 3 of private radio auctions.

Interestingly, it stepped into the digital radio segment in 2010 when the launch of Fun Ka Antenna, which had RJ talks. Then on, about a year ago in 2012, on its 11th anniversary, the company launched another station called Radio City Freedom, a digital radio platform for independent artists. Also, back to back, the channel launched three more digital radio stations - Smaran (devotional music), Indipop (Indi era music) and Hindi (back to back Bollywood songs).

Apurva Purohit

Seeing the great potential of the platform, the channel has announced that it will launch four more digital stations in the next one year. The latest one of these is a Tamil radio station, if one has to believe the market grapevine. Apurva Purohit, chief executive officer, Radio City, says that a major disadvantage of terrestrial radio is that it is restricted by regulations and hence can't expand into the niche genres.

"Digital radio is not bound by regulations as is the case with terrestrial radio. We can't expand until the auctions come in, there is a restriction with the genres that we chose and then, one can't offer various streams in a single city since only one frequency is allowed. But on digital, we can expand and go as niche as possible, even the language channels will flourish on this platform," she adds, believing that genre specification will only happen through digital on the radio platform.

It may be noted that digital radio as a segment is still not being monetised due to low listenership figures, although in terms of the share commanded in the advertising spends of brands, radio is still struggling at 4 per cent, while digital spend has reached 7 per cent, Purohit reveals.

"But," she notes, "though digital radio is still a small fraction of all that is digital, one can't wait for monetisation to start. We have to enter the domain and start building a community, get listeners and then, build a brand of ourselves. We don't want to lose the digital boat." She expects digital to become bigger than even TV and print one day.

To tackle the lack of mobility issue of the digital radio platform, the channel has launched an app, PlanetRadiocity, recently. The app enables access to the platform on the go. With smartphones coming in, the usage will only increase. However, Purohit feels that digital radio will never ever be able to 'replace' terrestrial radio. "All will co-exist. The way people thought that newspapers will vanish once news channels are privatised. It never happened. People consume similar content in different manners at different points in time. I don't see anything 'replacing'."

For its terrestrial radio platform, Radio City has increased the ad-rates by about 8-10 per cent in the first quarter of 2012 and expects to hike the rates again in the coming year.

During Phase 3 of privatisation of terrestrial FM radio, the channel plans to expand to 15-20 more stations largely in Tier-II markets, and a few Tier-I markets where the channel is yet to reach. Purohit, however, feels disappointed with the snail-paced developments in the matter. "We are very disappointed that it hasn't yet come out and we keep getting assurances, even today the outgoing secretary announced that it will happen, but we can't see much happening. All the players are ready and the strategies are in place, even the government claims that the paperwork is done but nothing is happening. I fail to understand why."

She adds that the channel never aimed at a larger footprint considering that it's not always profitable. Rather, it plans to focus on the key markets which are important to the advertisers and have a larger base of audience, in terms of population, which will help in faster growth.

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