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Retro Bollywood music shows have worked like a charm at many radio stations. Photo: Mint
Retro Bollywood music shows have worked like a charm at many radio stations. Photo: Mint

The return of retro on radio

FM radio operators are turning to old Hindi songs from the 1960s to 1990s for their new music channels

New Delhi: With new stations being launched under phase 3 of the FM radio auctions that concluded in September, retro music from Bollywood is emerging as the flavour of the season.

First off the block in March was the retro music channel Radio Nasha in Delhi from HT Media Ltd and now Sun Group’s Red FM is gearing up for a retro music station in Mumbai.

FM radio companies seem to be expanding their reach and operations in markets where they already have a presence through second frequencies, airing popular melodies from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and the 1990s.

Nisha Narayanan, chief operating officer at 93.5 Red FM, is turning to retro music for her soon-to-be launched radio station in Mumbai on the frequency 106.4. This will be Red FM’s second frequency in the city.

“Retro music is something where you just can’t go wrong. It has always been one of the most popular genres across different mediums," said Narayanan, without divulging the name of the new channel. The Sun Group runs a network of 48 radio stations.

Narayanan said that until now, the FM radio policy did not encourage nuanced or targeted radio programming by FM companies. However, with second frequencies being won by some companies in their existing markets, radio operators are open to experimenting with retro.

“As the air waves are opening up to more frequencies, the channels, not so-much by force but by choice now, are opting to go into the retro space," she added.

HT Media launched Radio Nasha in Delhi on the frequency 107.2 FM in March, followed by 91.9 FM in Mumbai. Radio Nasha, which plays Bollywood music from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, was the first station to be launched under phase 3 radio auctions.

HT Media already operates Fever 104 FM, which plays contemporary Bollywood music in the five metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Kolkata.

“The strategy has been to segment the radio-listening market into two distinct spaces: Radio Nasha that will play cool retro music, and the existing Fever FM that plays contemporary hit Bollywood music," said Harshad Jain, CEO, Radio & Entertainment, HT Media, the publisher of Hindustan Times and Mint.

The company had acquired 10 new frequencies in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and several towns of Uttar Pradesh in the phase 3 auctions.

Jain emphasized that since both the stations cater to audiences from different age groups (Fever FM’s audience is in the 20-34 age bracket and Radio Nasha’s audience’s in the 30-50), the two stations will be able to provide an unduplicated reach and distinct customer universes to the advertiser.

“With the two stations our bouquet is complete," he said.

As a premium product for the advertisers, Radio Nasha has also roped in Bollywood celebrities such as Anil Kapoor, Satish Kaushik and Amit Kumar to host its daily flagship shows as radio jockeys.

According to data from Radio Audience Measurement (RAM), Radio Nasha Delhi, on an average, posted a cumulative reach of 6.1 million listeners and was ranked fourth over a period of four weeks (week 17-week 20 which ended on 14 May) in Delhi.

To be sure, the retro-genre was first successfully tested by Reliance Broadcast Network Ltd (RBNL)-owned 92.7 Big FM, which currently runs retro channels in seven markets: Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bhopal, Indore, Rajkot and Baroda.

Big FM was the first-ever private station to turn retro in Delhi in 2011, followed by Mumbai in 2013, and has been a big hit with the audiences and the advertisers.

“After coming in the retro space, our listenership grew drastically. We moved from a market share of 8-9% in Mumbai to almost 19-20%. Our shows have been key-drivers for loyalty and listenership for our channel," said Ashwin Padmanabhan, chief operating officer at RBNL.

For the year 2016, the company has projected a 33% increase in revenue for Big FM over 2015. According to Padmanabhan, Big FM has been the market leader in Mumbai for almost a year now as per RAM ratings and the channel has been well received by the advertisers.

“There is more demand for inventory than we currently can supply. We have to drop the ads at times," he said.

Retro Bollywood music shows have worked like a charm at other stations too. Radio Mirchi, owned by Entertainment Network (India) Ltd (ENIL), the radio company of the Times Group, runs one of the oldest retro programmes called Purani Jeans, which is aired at prime-time (9pm-12 midnight) in 30 different centres.

“Purani Jeans has been running for over 15 years now and has become an iconic sub-brand," said Tapas Sen, chief programming officer at Radio Mirchi.

Sen added that the show is loved by the advertisers. “Very often, we have to refuse ads because we feel we will lose listenership," he said, declining to comment on plans for expanding retro programming or launching a new retro channel.

Jehil Thakkar, head of the media and entertainment practice at KPMG, India agreed that retro shows on the radio channels always get good reviews. “When Big FM entered the retro space as an exclusive retro channel, it was a big turnaround for the company. The strategy worked well with the audiences and therefore there is a swing towards retro now," he said.

“Almost all radio channels till now have been doing same kind of programmes. It is an attempt to break the back with a genre that seems to work," Thakkar added.

Media buyers at advertising agencies feel that radio companies need to package this content well to attract the advertisers and the younger audiences as well.

“It is going to be a tougher challenge for the radio stations to sustain full-time advertising for a larger number of stations," said Harsha Joshi, executive vice-president (group trading), Dentsu Aegis Network Ltd, a global media and digital marketing communication firm.

According to a report titled ‘The Future: now streaming’, by consulting firm KPMG and lobby group Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the radio industry will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 16.9% between 2015 and 2020 and is projected to be a 4,330 crore industry. Currently, the industry is valued at 1,700 crore.

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