FM Radio firms eye tie-ups with Indian Railways, Metro Stations

FM radio firms are partnering with metro stations and the Indian Railways to develop travel entertainment as an independent vertical

MUMBAI: Come September and Lucknow metro rail travellers will be in for a treat with all the eight metro stations buzzing with music and comedy snippets from Music Broadcast Ltd, the radio company that runs the FM brand Radio City.

The firm, promoted by Jagran Prakashan Ltd, has partnered with Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation (LMRC) in a bid to entertain travellers and develop travel entertainment as an independent vertical. LMRC is expected to launch Lucknow metro by the end of August.

The music/content will be played in capsules of 180 seconds, with metro announcements in-between. “The content is just for metros and will not be played in trains. It’s a landmark moment for us. We know the Lucknow market because we have been here for about 15 years. We will evaluate the idea of advertising, depending on the success of this experiment,” said Apurva Purohit, president, Jagran Prakashan.

“The plan is to forge more such partnerships because the reach is huge. Whether it (travel entertainment) is a business opportunity or a marketing one, we will evaluate subsequently,” Purohit added.

Radio City is not the only one looking at travel entertainment to enhance reach and expand footprint. Sun group-owned 93.5 Red FM is exploring potential partnerships in a bid to provide on-board entertainment to passengers, after a brief stint with Shatabdi trains (New Delhi and Kalka) in 2016. “Radio and on-the-go entertainment go hand in hand and, hence, we are definitely working with keen interest on exploring opportunities to monetize in this field. It’s one of the areas which every radio player wants to build upon, since we already have content and also the expertise to create content that can keep consumers engaged,” said Nisha Narayanan, chief operating officer at Red FM.

HT Media Ltd and Entertainment Network India Ltd (ENIL) had also evinced interest in a rail radio project to be introduced by Indian Railways,  reported in 2016. HT Media runs Fever and Radio Nasha FM brands.

“We have been keen to offer our innovative content to different consumer segments and serve business’s key objectives at the same time. In-store radio from Fever FM is a pioneering initiative in this direction for the significant and expanding Indian retail sector,” said Harshad Jain, chief executive officer, radio and entertainment at HT Media Ltd, which runs the Fever and Radio Nasha FM brands.

The company, through its initiative in-store radio, has been working with some of the leading shopping malls and retail/food outlets across the country including DLF Mall of India, MGF Mall Gurgaon, Pizza Hut, Numero Uno and Delhi Duty Free since 2012.

Most of such tie-ups work on a revenue sharing model between the government or private companies and radio firms. “There is usually no upfront payment. There may be capital expenses that the radio company has to pick up. The ad revenues on such projects are minimal because everything is in the experimental stage right now. At times, tenders can also be floated,” said an executive at a radio firm, who did not want to be named.

To be sure, the idea of travel entertainment was first successfully tested by ENIL with the launch of airport radio Mirchi T3, in partnership with Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) in 2015. Radio Mirchi’s airport radio caters to flyers travelling via Terminal 3 (T3) of the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) in New Delhi. ENIL, the radio broadcasting unit of Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd, operates Radio Mirchi and Mirchi Love FM radio brands across the country.

“This may become a separate business vertical. Right now, it’s only an experiment. It’s not easy to sell. More and more radio firms eyeing such opportunities is inevitable. It’s a competitive marketplace,” said Prashant Panday, chief executive officer at ENIL, adding that the company is very choosy in the kind of advertising it does.

Media buyers feel that such radio opportunities have the potential to earn enough revenue to become a lucrative business for companies. “It’s a great idea. We look at railways and metros as mediums for outdoor advertising and radio is trying to change that. Radio is a great medium for local advertising and with such innovations, it is further expanding its reach. It (travel entertainment) will definitely be a profitable business because radio still has a lot of untapped potential,” said Sujata Dwibedy, executive vice-president at media buying agency Carat, a part of the Dentsu Aegis Network India Pvt. Ltd

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