FICCI Frames 2014: There is a monetisation opportunity in Radio as it goes digital

Panel discusses the imminent changes which will come with the advent of digital radio

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FICCI Frames 2014: There is a monetisation opportunity in Radio as it goes digital

Panel discusses the imminent changes which will come with the advent of digital radio

Sohini Sen | Mumbai | March 14, 2014


Radio is the one medium which is usually overlooked the most during discussions and debates. However, FICCI Frames decided to question and explain the future of radio in light of the oncoming digital wave on its second day, Thursday, March 13, 2014. The session on 'The future of Indian Radio and Monetisation Opportunities' took a close look at the third phase of FM radio and whether it is prudent to look at other avenues till it takes off.

In the panel were eminent media personalities. Alexander Zinc, Vice-Chairman, Digital Radio Mondiale, shared the dias with Yogendra Pal, Advisor to the I&B Ministry, Government of India and former Additional DG, AIR and Doordarshan. Prasun Kumar, Head - Brand & Marketing, Reliance Communications, exchanged views with ZenithOptimedia's Group CEO Anupriya Acharya. The session was chaired by Tarun Katial, CEO, Reliance Broadcast Network.

Acharya started the discussion saying that consumer interaction had moved from linear to non-linear and there are newer ways to engage with consumers. Consumers have a plethora of choices available to them which has multiplied in recent years with the advent of digital media. According to her, certain aspects remain the same even after digitisation reaches the radio industry. The background entertainment that radio provides would continue to be there, and the strong bond that radio enjoys with the listener and the local/regional connect it boasts of will not change either. Also, as a medium, radio is a place where there is low advertising avoidance, which makes it a strong platform for marketers. “On the other hand, with the beginning of digital signals in the radio industry, there would be certain positive changes including a rise in regional programming, rise of tier II and tier III programming as well as rise of experiential marketing or the 360 connect. The humongous reach and scope that mobile enjoys will carry over to radio as well with digitization,” pointed out Acharya.

Alexander Zinc explained how digital radio lets us go from analogue to digital networks or use them simultaneously. Zinc went on to say that the real benefit of digitisation would be that just like FM in analogue system, even in digital FM will be free to air and will enjoy the same convenience and ease of use. Once the transition period from analogue to digital signal is over, that is when the actual cost savings will kick in. Zinc also explained concepts and global trends like music recognition apps on digital radio, on-demand information while listening to radio (like weather, news, games), etc. According to him, “it is also possible to target listeners in digital radio according to any specific vertical – language or region, etc.”

What Zinc and Yogendra Pal agreed on was the advantage of broadcasting more than one programme at the same time. According to Pal, it is possible to reach the masses and a specific target audience at the same time with the help of digital radio. Not just that, he said, “digital will no longer be mono programming. Digital radio would mean the start of stereo and surround sound.”

“AIR has always been pro-digitisation. We already have eight transmitters which are operational in digital mode, and 64 more are in the pipeline. We hope that by 2016 all transmitters will be digitised. Will it be too expensive? Maybe, in the beginning. But just as it is with technology, the numbers game will push prices down,” Pal remarked.

According to Prasun Kumar, marketers like himself are more concerned about return on investment. He felt that radio is as conversational a medium as can be. Having brought Apple iPhones here, Kumar felt that “if radio is used well, it can really deliver ROI”.

“Any national brand has its pockets of strengths. In such a scenario we scout for a medium which minimises spillover. However, marketers still hesitate to use radio as the primary medium because it is still not measured. It is now measured - in a not so formal way - in only four cities. As radio becomes more fragmented, the need for measurement becomes more important,” concluded Kumar.