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Big FM’s 10-year journey has been satisfying and enriching: RBNL’s Tarun Katial

The CEO of Reliance Broadcast Network, which owns 92.7 Big FM, speaks about the channel’s success, future plans and how digital radio will give the medium the required push

Archit Ambekar | Mumbai | September 21, 2016

Tarun-Katial Tarun Katial

A pioneer in introducing ‘retro’ to listeners across Mumbai, 92.7 Big FM was one of the first radio players to realise the need to change the strategy to carve a niche in the space it is in. And bang on, it changed its strategy from a contemporary hit radio (CHR) to being retro. It has been three years when it went retro and has been ruling the minds of listeners ever since.

It was on September 24, 2006 that Reliance Broadcast Network (RBNL) began operations for 92.7 Big FM. Starting with Mumbai, in the last 10 years, the network has spread its presence across 45 cities, 1,200 towns and over 4.3 crore listeners for its 45 stations. The network recently added 14 frequencies in Phase III auctions last year and intends to expand to tier II and tier III cities for the 14 new frequencies.

On completing 10 years, BestMediaInfo.com caught up with Tarun Katial, CEO, RBNL, to find out about the 10-year journey, highs and lows of the industry and a lot more.

Katial said the journey has been satisfying and enriching. Having been there since the beginning, Katial has seen the organisation change in many ways. Having a product-centric established competition; it was not easy for the broadcaster to come to #1 in a span of 10 years.

It was only when it realised that the strategy needed to be changed did the channel gain popularity. “We were the first ones to go retro in Mumbai about four years ago. We thought of going with something more value created.” That’s when the ‘retro’ strategy was thought of.

The show ‘Suhaana Safar with Annu Kapoor’ was an instant hit as it took listeners to the golden era. This unique proposition was a game-changer for the network. Katial said, “In the last 10 years, I have learnt a lot. It has given me the opportunity to understand consumers. We work closely with a lot of talent in Kannada, Bengali and today we have content in about 23 languages. We have about 10 intellectual properties (IP), which has helped us learn a lot about talent in different cities.”

Time for digital radio

Sharing his insight on how he sees digital radio, Katial thinks digital will give the medium the required push. The network is working on digital or internet radio and it will soon see some original content in the coming year.

With digital radio taking forefront, brand integration is of importance. Big FM has done branded integration for some brands. In one of its IPs, the broadcaster even created a web series. The channel is quite ‘trending’ with all that’s happening in the media space.

Katial is happy with the fact that its competition is trying to copy its strategy. He laughs, “It’s a good sign because when you are copied you know you are doing well.”

Asking about his thoughts on radio jockeys (RJs) doing brand endorsements, Katial mentioned doing limited things on that front. The broadcaster doesn’t promote many things via RJs unlike other players.

Need for new listenership data

Queried about ratings in the industry, Katial said, “Understanding the music licensing strategy has helped us. The diary-based research needs to be evolved. A new framework for auctions with the ministry needs to be discussed.”

Throwing light on the fact that the diary method is not wide enough as it covers only four metros, Katial says he is glad TRAI’s intervention is helping the industry.

Keeping it low, Katial refused to comment on what is happening with the Zee deal and how other players are playing on top-line data.

Coming to revenues, the broadcaster has grown 30 per cent from 14-15 to 15-16 and seen an EBIDTA growth of 37 per cent in 15-16. It has had a good ad growth and expects robust growth with digital. The radio broadcaster has seen a stable set of advertisers. Their top 30 advertisers are the same while others come and go. Some of the top categories that advertise on radio are fast-moving-consumer-goods (FMCG), real estate, retail and banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI).

With the 10th year celebrations and its position in the industry, the broadcaster is looking to increase the ad rates by 15 per cent. Katial hopes for a deeper penetration in the next five years. With Phase III auctions and the TRAI intervention to help with a better ratings body, he says the industry will only grow.


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