Is there a market for radio plays and other non-Bollywood radio content?

26 Sep,2012

By Robin Thomas


Tune into any radio station, chances are you would be listening to some offbeat programmes. Take for instance Big FM’s storytelling show – ‘Yaadon Ka Idiot Box with Neelesh Mishra’ which is already in its second season. What is even more interesting is the fact that it is aired during the primetime 9pm to 11pm, Monday through Friday. After the success of Ramayana, Fever FM launched a new radio play, Gandhi beginning March this year. Radio City only recently introduced ‘Freedom Hour’, a programme which plays only Indie music and aired every Saturday from 5 pm to 6pm across its 20 stations. These are just a few examples, even smaller stations like Radio Choklate and Tomato FM have been airing radio plays and other non-bollywood, non- music contents. While content on FM radio has been evolving ever since its existence, the question is whether the listener is listening to them or is there no scope for these contents on radio?


According to Harshad Jain, Business Head, Radio and Entertainment – HT Media Ltd, the listener’s choice has been changing with the evolution of the radio industry. The radio industry is showing early signs of programming content that is beyond music. “Yes there is a market for non music / non Bollywood content in the FM radio space. Music has become a leveler for FM operators. The on-air treatment done through non- music based programming element like audio drama, sports, festival specials, are contents that differentiates any brand and Fever 104 FM is arguably the only station that has built a strong emotional connect with its listeners through these initiatives. Purely from an advertisers standpoint non-music content aims towards driving engagement and high interactivity.”


Kartik Kalla, National Programming Head, Radio City believes that differentiating music is the need of the hour. “Music constitutes almost 75 per cent of the total airtime and hence it is the most important feature in programming. We have recently introduced ‘Freedom Hour’ on Saturdays between 5-6pm across all our 20 stations. This is an extension of the music that is played on ‘Freedom Radio’ on The listeners enjoy refreshing music which is a welcome change from the regular Bollywood music that’s played.”


Besides playing Oriya music, every Sunday evening Radio Choklate is also said to air opera or plays called ‘Choklate Rangamancha’. Radio Choklate also airs a weekly interactive show wherein, letters from listeners are read out on- air and their questions answered. Monica Nayyar Patnaik, Joint Managing Director at Eastern Media Ltd was of the opinion that radio programming has been constantly evolving over the years. Earlier FM stations would play only songs, then they emphasized more on RJ talk, then they went onto non- stop music and so on. The response from listeners, particularly for offbeat radio programmes like radio plays have been very good, it also affirms that there is a market for non-music contents.


R Venkata Subramanian, Senior Director-Investments, MPG India pointed out that while non music or non Bollywood programmes create differentiation, a listener however mainly tunes into radio for music. I believe that these shows will be able to build their properties for a longer period of time only when they are associated with brands. In addition to these, radio programmes also need to be more interactive and engaging which would click with the listeners.


Industry players are of the opinion that while content in radio has been constantly evolving on radio, there is a market for non- music and non- Bollywood radio programmes, but it must be highly interactive and engaging with its listeners. Despite government restrictions, FM radio has been constantly finding newer ways to engage and interact with its listeners. FM Phase III rollout is expected to witness further innovation and differentiation in radio programming, especially with multiple frequencies which is expected to introduce new genres of FM radio.


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