Phase III countdown: ‘Overbidding will kill stations’

24 Nov,2011

By Robin Thomas

FM radio listenership has more or less remained stagnant for a while since the completion of FM phase II. The soon to be launched FM phase III may have therefore brought some respite to FM stations across India. For some phase III is an opportunity to expand their listenership reach to newer cities and towns, yet for others it becomes an opportunity to further consolidate their position within a particular state/region. If Multiple Frequencies are allowed, it will introduce different genres of FM radio within the same city, thus encouraging new listeners to tune in.

The drawback however would be the marginal FDI increase in radio to 26 percent from the earlier 20 percent. This marginal increase in FDI will probably discourage investors from taking the full plunge into the phase III bidding process. News is not available in the best of forms too, as FM stations are allowed to source news only from All India Radio.


Mr Prashant Panday
Mr. Harshad Jain
Mr Harrish M. Bhatia
Mr Rana Barua

Despite all these developments, FM stations face a whole lot of other challenges which may have a direct or indirect effect on their phase III plans. The Music Royalty issue still remains unresolved, as a result of which FM stations, particularly in small towns, have to pay higher royalty. With expansion there would also be an increase in operation costs, and employee or talent management could be another challenge. MxMIndia spoke to few FM players to find out their views on the challenges for FM stations in phase III.


Mr Prashant Panday, CEO, Radio Mirchi explained, “If people overbid in Phase III, they are finished. Radio is not like TV. One has to be extremely cost-conscious. One has to keep his head down while doing the business of radio. Phase III has e-auctions. There is a very good chance of bids going haywire. This is what each bidding broadcaster has to keep in mind.”


Mr Harshad Jain, Business Head, Fever FM observed, “Phase III will bring with it a set of inevitable challenges like rising costs to set up new stations, and getting new audiences while the radio industry on the whole is still grappling with current costs and investments.”


Mr Harrish M Bhatia, CEO, MY FM said, “The most important is the Royalty Issue; till the time it is completely resolved, it is quite difficult for the radio industry to grow efficiently. The absence of an acceptable radio measurement tool is another challenge. Content restriction is a big restraint for the industry as we are not allowed to provide self-generated news content. The challenges faced by the radio industry in the cities and towns other than the six metros are more or less the same as above.  To overcome these, the industry as a whole needs to work in tandem.”


One of the possible challenges that FM stations can no longer remain immune from is the global economic climate. The uncertainty hit the world economy just before the FM phase III rollout, which may have some impact in the bidding process. “India as an economy is still expected to show healthy growth rates despite global sluggishness and we believe Radio will see greater volumes in a downturn too. The key issue is the ability to take up prices that will be difficult to manage in a downturn,” explained Mr Jain of Fever FM.


According to Mr Bhatia, “The global showdown is more of metro phenomenon, hence it has not impacted the tier 2 and tier 3 cities. In fact, the radio business growth, even for existing players, is expected from non-metro cities.”


In an earlier interaction with MxMIndia, Mr Rana Barua, COO Red FM had said, “I believe we should be taking complete cognizance of the fact that there is definitely a slowdown. The clients, advertisers, everybody are extremely, extremely careful about the money they are investing in any form of media. Taking things for granted and creating business plans for next two or three years seems passé now.”


Three schools of thought emerged from this interaction, one which believes that the economic slowdown is a metro phenomenon. The second line of thinking is that the despite the global slowdown, the radio industry will continue to grow. And the other believes that the industry must admit the fact that there is a slowdown and hence the industry must take a cautious approach especially during the phase III bidding process.

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2 responses to “Phase III countdown: ‘Overbidding will kill stations’”

  1. rj avinash says:

    kab aayegaaaaaaaaa wo dinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

  2. Garima arora says:

    donno when its gonna happen….may be in 2050