Radio Indigo

Radio Indigo has succeeded in rocking Bangalore so far. Excellent music. Excellent RJs. No ads. Even since this started, I have been more than happy to hand over control of our Worldspace to my parents (who listen to Sai Global Harmony and Art of Living channels). How long the fun will last is the question.

Right now the channel is not making any money. Just spending loads on music, infra and top-notch RJs. Soon there should be ads. How much will depend on listenership of the channel. And that depends on the market in Bangalore for international music. There have been instances before in India (Go FM in Bombay) where international music channels have gone belly up. And the lack of a sufficient ?network effect? might spell bad news for people like me who prefer this anyday to Himesbhai or Sonu Nigam.

I?m not sure how much this channel can make by way of ads. In this regard, I propose a CAS (conditional access scheme) for radio. The great failing of Worldspace is that it can?t be installed on cars (the antenna has to be stationary).

Could we have encrypted terrestrial FM channels which could be received in cars and homes through a special receiver? Is there a significant technological barrier to that? Of course, a huge problem will be that new instruments for receiving will have to be installed in cars (most of them have ?ordinary? stereos already). Maybe we could have a special antenna that could be added on to existing systems.

Avid listeners of certain genres won?t mind paying a nominal fee to listen to the music of their choice. Channels need not rely on ads anymore, and will instead air more meaningful content. There will be scope for ?niche? channels (one big problem with FM in India today is that all channels play the same Himesbhai or Bluffmaster), and will provide more choice to listeners. Customer profiling can be done and the few ads that are aired can be better targeted and charged a premium. A win-win-win situation for all.

One challenge would be technology. The other is that it would require a major shift in attitude. Apart from Worldspace, people have never been used to paying for radio, so it will take some effort in that direction. Still worth a try, I believe.

On a related note, ?contests? on radio serve a dual purpose. Firstly, channels get a cut of the revenue that telecom guys generate by way of SMSs sent to the special 4-digit numbers. On the other hand, the strength of response for a particular promo or contest can give an idea about the overall listenership for a channel, and can be taken back to advertisers in order to gain a premium. Strong.

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