Contests, the new hit formula for FM stations

New Delhi, April 1 (IANS) Talent hunts, meet your favourite stars and gifts galore - private FM radio stations are increasingly turning to innovative contests and competitions to outshine one another and attract as many listeners as possible.

A well-executed idea for a radio contest invariably leads to a 10-12 percent increase in the number of listeners, said Anand Chakravarthy, vice president (marketing) of Big 92.7 FM.

"Such contests are certainly meant to grab a higher share of listeners," he said.

Agreed Riya Mukherjee, national head of brand integration and corporate social responsibility (CSR), Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM.

"These contests are introduced mainly to draw a larger audience. Basically, it is done for a dual purpose - to engage active listeners (those who already listen to the station regularly) and to attract attention from passive listeners (those who tune in once in a while)."

Radio Mirchi frequently organises innovative contests on various occasions. It held a special "Holi Ka Samaan" for the festival of colours last week.

The recent partnership between Big FM and playback singer Sonu Nigam for their "Sing with Sonu" contest is expected to start a new trend in the FM industry - that of incorporating celebrities in competitions.

"We have indeed set a trend that others might follow and the charm of an opportunity of sharing the stage with a celebrity draws an even larger audience," Chakravarthy told IANS over the phone from Mumbai.

Reality hunts, currently popular on television, have also begun to catch the fancy of FM stations. Radio City 91.1 FM recently organised "RC Live" - a nationwide hunt for India's best Hindi music band.

The prize for winners was an album release contract with music label EMI and a joint promotion by Radio City and EMI for one year. The contest received an overwhelming response across the country.

Mukherjee explained that such competitions result in definite spikes. But considering that they are in a business, she said they do not primarily look at temporary growth.

"Achieving sustained growth holds more priority for anyone in a business," she said.

According to her, youngsters and homemakers are the prime target audience of these contests.

"Either we target the time or the mind space of these people and basically a worthwhile reward or a prize is a big draw for them," she said.

Chakravarthy seconded the thought and said that people who fall in the age bracket of 12 to 29 years form the largest chunk of their customers and hence their target audience.

The radio channels face stiff competition as a result of the increasing number of listeners among all sections of society.

"The audience for radio has grown exponentially over the past two-three years," said Mukherjee.

She said that it wasn't a surprise when on one occasion the 'listenership' of Radio Mirchi had gone higher than the viewership of any national TV channel.

Chakravarthy pointed out that there had been a dramatic increase of over 45 percent in the number of listeners of their radio station over the past few years.

"According to our listenership report of 2007, there was a 21 percent increase in urban cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. In fact, the listenership in smaller cities is also rising significantly," he said.

Apart from contests, what helps a radio station build a respectable position for itself?

Said Chakravarthy: " 'Listen to your listeners' is the mantra. As long as the content of a station is relevant to the listeners, it will be popular."

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