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FM radio players a divided lot over DTH entry
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New Delhi: Even as the broadcast regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is deciding whether to allow the broadcast of radio through the DTH platform, the Rs 840-crore domestic FM radio sector is doubtful about the present potential of DTH turning into significant revenue earner for them. While most FM radio players want to test the opportunity of adding another distribution medium in the form of DTH, if it comes sans added cost, they are not convinced about the DTH window offering them a revenue opportunity to soothe their bleeding balance-sheets.

“Much of how things shape up would depend on how fairly the policy is drafted. The policy should plug the loophole so that DTH players don’t end up with their own radio channels in the name of value-added services. Then there is the issue of how would FM radio players, who presently have been granted city specific broadcasting licences, be able to offer content nationally on the DTH platform. We need much more clarity on the policy front. However, if the DTH is allowed as a distribution medium without added costs, we would work towards creating our presence there,” said Apurva Purohit, CEO, Radio City and president, Association of Radio Operators of India (AROI).

Fever FM business head, S Keerthivasan also doesn’t have much expectations from the DTH platform in terms of revenue. “If we look at the way radio is consumed in our country, most of us listen to FM radio in kitchen, bathroom, vehicles. DTH wouldn’t give us that flexibility. Where it can add value is the commercial space like hotels and restaurants, among others. Besides, Fever individually accounts for 12 million listeners, while all DTH players combined haven’t reached that figure yet. The space where we are anticipating much more rapid growth is mobile radio.”

Despite not pinning much hope on DTH, Fever wants to be present on the medium if the added distribution window comes without cost. However, Sunil Kumar, managing director (radio business consultancy) of Big River Radio, feels that with DTH going mobile and perfecting the technology of being functional on airplane, trains, cars and buses, there could be an untapped synergy between FM radio and DTH in future. The fundamental difference between the FM radio and DTH revenue model is that while the former earns all part of its revenue from advertisements, the latter depends on subscription fee for the largest contribution in its earning pie.

The media agencies also do not seem convinced that FM radio on DTH would warrant upward revision of ad rates. “DTH or TV in any form may not become the preferable window through which the FM radio will be accepted.Hence, while technologically it may be possible, the listener base on DTH is likely to be limited. Such radio DTH listeners may be seen as additional incentive, but not a reason enough to reconsider rates,”said Nandini Dias, COO, Lodestar Universal.

Radio Mirchi remains hopeful and has urged Trai to allow private FM on DTH .

“If private FM is able to reach its audience on TV also, it would help increase its relevance to advertisers and may make more advertising revenue. This incremental revenue could help the industry in fueling its huge cost requirements. We would be able to survive only if we become more significant to our advertisers with limited incremental costs ,” Prashant Panday, CEO of Radio Mirchi, has written to Trai. Other radio players feel that till a scientific listener base measurement technique is not evolved for radio on DTH, it would be difficult to convince media buyers to translate the added listeners into ad revenues.

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