Tier 2 & 3 crucial for radio: Monica Nayyar Patnaik

30 Mar,2012

By Robin Thomas


She is the founder member of Radio Choklate, the radio arm of Eastern Media Ltd. Monica Nayyar Patnaik is the Joint Managing Director at Eastern Media Ltd., In conversation with MxMIndia, Ms Patnaik spoke at length about the trends in the radio industry, the challenges, on Radio Choklate post break-even, the phase III plans and much more.


Q: How would you rate the year 2011 for Radio Choklate and the radio industry?

The radio industry is still awaiting phase III announcements, and there are hopes in these announcements. Secondly, the increase in FDI has brought some cheer for all of us. As far as the copyright issue is concerned, the talks are still on, though I believe that we have gone ahead and may soon reach a breakthrough point.


For the past three years Radio Choklate has been able to further consolidated its position and achieve break-even. The year 2011 has seen our listenership in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and other nearby areas further increased, the reason being the change in programmes. We have been constantly changing our programmes, placed them in the right time slot and it worked well. In addition to these, our on ground activations also gave further momentum to our listenership.


Q: Radio Choklate achieved break-even couple of years ago… what has changed for the station since then, ie in terms of infrastructure, talent, etc?

The break-even achieved was purely advertising led, our expenditures has however gone up. One of the significant contributors was the Telecom sector. They had advertised considerably which gave us a huge boost in our advertising revenues. Besides we also deliver a lot of value additions to our clients. Going forward, it is not so easy. It is difficult in getting the right talent, and a lot of money is invested in recruiting good talent. Hence both in terms of talent pool and infrastructure it requires a lot of money and besides the copyright issue is yet to be fully resolved. In fact this year has not been so good for the industry in terms of advertising revenues which has slightly declined.


Q: According to IRS, radio consumption has seen a decline. Do you agree? Some say that the decline is because of a delayed phase III and content restrictions…

I have a different view on the listenership because we have been number one in our listenership since a long time and we are still number one radio station. However we have not witnessed any decline in our listenership. There are still many small town areas that need to be covered under the IRS bandwidth, many of which significantly contribute to the listenership share. Hence IRS must bring those uncovered or under covered areas under the IRS bandwidth to bring up the overall listenership.


Q: Has radio listenership reached a saturation point in the metros and the next phase of growth for radio will come from tier 2 and 3 cities?

I do agree that the next growth of FM listenership in India will come from the tier 2 and 3 cities as there are lot more cities and towns that need to be covered. With phase III rollout FM radio will be spreading its wings in 227 new cities. I believe it is now time that those cities which have reached saturation point must bring differentiation in terms of delivery, packaging and programming. However these developments can only take place once multiple licenses are allowed and I am sure it will help especially in cities where listeners need variety of music or programming.


Q: Do you think the industry is confusing innovation with differentiation? As you just said, there is lack of differentiation… but, isn’t there too much innovation happening in radio today?

It could be true however I am aiming to give listeners a different experience by getting into the niche areas i.e. by providing them a differentiated programme. So, if the listeners in my State want us to get into different areas of programming we would deliver to them what they want. So, if the listeners want a talk show they will be given, and that’s why we are so keen on multiple licenses, which is the key to differentiation.


Q: You once said, come FM Phase III, you would want Radio Choklate to further expand in Orissa… Do your plans still remain the same?

Absolutely, our plan still remains the same. We are looking forward to phase III, and our plans to further consolidate in Orissa. Music is just one part of radio, and for the medium to grow robust it needs other elements of contents as well, whether its sports commentaries or news and current affairs. Hence I feel there shouldn’t be any more delay in Phase III, the sooner it is rolled out the better for the industry.


Q: Will multiple frequencies bring additional listeners and advertisers to radio or will it further fragment the listenership in the already fragmented medium?

I don’t think so. How many multiple frequencies can one have in the same city? Multiple frequencies will give listeners more choice, and yes it will bring new listeners to radio, perhaps even those that have never listened to radio.


Q: How has 2012 welcomed Radio Choklate? Any specific industry trends we should watch out for in the coming years?

In 2012, Radio Choklate will look forward to FM Phase III rollout, we should be able to give different variety to the listeners and we will continue to concentrate more on local music.


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