| 23 Feb 2024
Fever FM business head S Keerthivasan - Advertisers can no longer ignore us

The story of HT Media's Fever FM reads a bit like Cinderalla's. The station, a joint venture with Virgin, started life quietly, and was regarded as insignificant till recently by both audiences and advertisers. Till a few months ago, when the station got itself a makeover, slowly and silently. A tweak here and a tug there, and Fever is now taking on the mightiest of the rivals by the horns. Fever FM business head S Keerthivasan talks about the journey thus far and the vision ahead.

Excerpts -

How has Fever suddenly overtaken its rivals in most markets it operates in?

One of the things that happens in radio across  the world is that movements don't happen in bits and pieces. It happens in jumps. Even in Delhi, two years ago when the first set of RAM figures came in, the first few weeks we had a five to six per cent share. Then in a week we jumped to 12 per cent and then we held on to those numbers. The fact remains that we have been working on a lot of things in the last six to eight months. It's just the results are being visible only in the last two months.

Also, in the media fraternity, we were being perceived as a small, insignificant player. Nobody was actually tracking us. Suddenly, when the figures are making a huge impact, they feel it's a huge surprise.

But the figures are speaking loud now. You have broken even in the last quarter, and the fiscal ahead looks promising too.

Our listenership numbers have jumped big time. We are number one in Mumbai and Bangalore now, and number two in Delhi. No other network or no other station can boast of such ratings. I know, that in the long run, we may slip a bit here and there sporadically. But the fact remains that we are a significant player in all these markets and the advertisers cannot ignore us.

But if you look at revneue that has come in last year, predominantly, it's come in for Delhi. There, we are looking at a significant growth in revenue this year, possible double!

Was the conversion to Kannada responsible for the turn in fortunes in Bangalore?

When we launched in Bangalore, we thought we would do what we did in the other markets - segment the market and go for the north Indian audience, because it is generally perceived as a cosmopolitan city.

But when we went deeper into the numbers, it came out that predominantly it's a Kannada market. We were playing the wrong language in that market. We only changed the language, but the other elements - the production, the quality of execution stayed the same.

Innovations like going Digi sound in Mumbai and Delhi, having the Delhi Radio Survey have helped too?

A think a lot of things have helped, brought together. Apart from the survey in Delhi and going digi sound in Mumbai and Delhi, we did a lot of local contests in Delhi and Bangalore, we completely changed the line-up both in Mumbai and Bangalore, brought in some big name jocks in Mumbai - like Anuraag Pandey and Karan Singh. The Bangalore line up has been completely overhauled. A lot of people had to be trained and the learning curve had to take its course. We have also started a part Marathi show in Mumbai from May. So we are actually turning a very very local station in these markets.

So, even though the Delhi and Mumbai stations are Hindi, they will not sound similar.

How much has an investment has gone into the overhaul?

We started around June last year. We did digi sound in July August, then we started working on the line up, by September we also ran a television campaign, and we now have a print campaign running. So, it is a combination of factors that has helped the network.

How helpful has RAM been? Are there still any challenges?

Like in any measurement system, there are hitches and glitches. We were all in denial mode for the first one year, but over a period of a year, RAM has also established itself. People using it are also getting more and more comfortable with it. A lot of the changes that have happened in our station are thanks to RAM - if you analyse and understand the figures that RAM throws up on an hourly basis. This helps to make those subtle programming adjustments.

Has radio been successful in pulling the retailer on board?

We have more retail advertisers than the bigger networks in the country. Even in a place like Delhi, the ratio of retail to national advertising is 50:50.

Fever has witnessed a lot of shuffling within its ranks...

Fever has actually been a very lucky station in that we have retained all our people. But every two years, we keep moving them so that they do not get stale. But we have a strong vertical structure. Plus, we now have a strong talent pool...apart from Karan Singh and Anuraag Pandey and Rishi, we plan to have another prominent RJ joining the Mumbai station soon.

So, are you poised to become 'the most profitable radio station in the country'?

Yes, hope so. Within the next 18 to 24 months.

Do you still think radio is a 'big city' business?