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FM Phase III auctions: Who spent what
MUMBAI: HT Media, which was counted among the smaller players until now with just four stations in the metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru under the Fever FM brand, has emerged in a big way in the first batch of FM Phase III auctions. To everyone’s surprise, the radio network picked up Delhi’s lone frequency for a whopping Rs 169 crore (Rs 1.69 billion), followed by Mumbai for another Rs 122 crore (Rs 1.22 billion).
Due to the high prices in cities like Delhi and Mumbai, the radio network spent around Rs 339.7 crore (Rs 3.4 billion) for 10 frequencies, of which seven were in the Northern states (Kanpur, Lucknow, Agra, Allahabad, Aligarh, Bareilly and Gorakhpur). Considering the strong presence of its print business in the North, the auction wins could help the radio network cement its position in these cities quickly.
ENIL, which operates its FM radio business under the Radio Mirchi brand, spent Rs 339.2 crore (Rs 3.39 billion) and pocketed the maximum number of frequencies – 17. As a result, the total number of stations will go up from 32 to 49 (excluding the four Oye FM stations already approved for acquisition). It picked up the single frequency in Bengaluru for Rs 109 crore (Rs 1.09 billion).
Though ENIL lost out on the big metros of Delhi and Mumbai, it is now waiting for the approval of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to acquire the three metro stations of Oye FM.
Interestingly, Radio Mirchi became the only player to acquire a third frequency in the city of Hyderabad. In an interaction, ENIL MD and CEO Prashant Panday had told TelevisionPost.com that this frequency would enable the network to offer different products to people in the market.
ENIL acquired five frequencies in the North (Kanpur, Lucknow, Chandigarh, Jammu, Srinagar), five in the South (Bangalore, Cochin, Kozhikode, two in Hyderabad), two in Gujarat (Ahmedabad, Surat), two in East (Guwahati, Shillong), two in Maharashtra (Nagpur, Pune) and one in Jaipur.
Reliance Broadcast Network, which operates the biggest network, Big FM, in terms of frequencies, was among the few players that did not go overboard in its spends during the auctions.
The network spent Rs 116.9 crore (Rs 1.17 billion) to acquire 14 frequencies spread across the country.
With the largest network of 45 stations already, Big FM will now be a 59-station network, retaining its position as the largest brand. Surprisingly, Big FM was not among the winners in the big metros. But the network managed to grab frequencies in Lucknow, Nagpur, Pune, Patna, Varanasi, Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Gorakhpur, Kolhapur, Muzzaffarpur, Agartala, Aizwal, Itanagar and Shillong.
RBNL COO Ashwin Padmanabhan told TVP, “We believe the bidding for frequencies like Mumbai and Delhi was irrational and would put a question mark on viability. Hence, we did not pursue them.”
Interestingly, RBNL did not acquire even a single frequency in the Southern region. Meanwhile, it did manage to strengthen its presence by acquiring seven channels in the North, four in the North East and four in Maharashtra.
Padmanabhan said, “We are delighted with the way the first batch of Phase III has turned out for RBNL. We are the biggest network with a footprint across 59 cities covering metros, mini-metros and a deep penetration into key markets of UP, Maharashtra, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, as well as in the North East. With this we will be able to offer advertisers both wide reach and deep penetration.”
With 15 per cent cap, each network could have a maximum of 52 stations. In such a case, Big FM could have got only seven more stations. But with the NE and J&K stations not counted for the cap, it helped the network expand its presence not only in those regions, but overall as well.
Music Broadcast Pvt Ltd, which operates Radio City, remained focused on Tier II markets and acquired 11 frequencies in the auctions to the tune of Rs 62.5 crore (Rs 625 million).
Radio City CEO Apurva Purohit said that this would increase the radio network’s footprint across important cities in each state. “Radio City and Radio Mantra together will be dominant players in important state clusters and continue our successful Phase II strategy of concentrating on advertiser-relevant markets.”
Recently, print major Jagaran Prakashan Ltd, which operates Radio Mantra, acquired Music Broadcast Pvt Ltd.
Mantra already has presence in eight cities in the North. Music Broadcast acquired four frequencies in the North (Patiala, Patna, Kanpur, Jamshedpur), which will help the two radio brands consolidate their position in the region.
Another point of interest is that Music Broadcast has acquired four channels in Rajasthan (Ajmer, Bikaner, Kota, Udaipur). The network presently has presence only in Jaipur in Rajashtan.
This was another network with a lesser focus on South and acquired only one channel Madurai. Meanwhile, it won Nashik and Kolhapur in Maharashtra.
Due to Madras High Court orders, the frequencies acquired by Sun TV, South Asia FM and Kal Radio were not revealed. Thus, only the results of Sun TV’s associate companies Digital Radio Broadcasting (Mumbai) and Digital Radio Broadcasting (Delhi), which operate Red FM Mumbai and Delhi respectively, were revealed.
While Digital Radio Broadcasting Mumbai won a channel in Mumbai for Rs 122 crore (Rs 1.22 billion), its Delhi counterpart won two frequencies in Jodhpur and Srinagar for a total of Rs 12.06 crore (Rs 120.6 million).
Among the smaller players, DB Corp, which operates My FM, emerged strong by winning 14 frequencies for Rs 32.4 crore. (Rs 324 million).
While DB Corp could not afford the bigger metros, it focused on expanding its presence heavily in Maharashtra as nine of its 14 acquired frequencies were located in Maharashtra, namely Ahmednagar, Dhule, Jalgaon, Nanded, Akola, Aurangabad, Nashik, Sangli and Sholapur.
With no focus on the South, it won three channels in the Northern region through Hissar, Karnal and Muzzaffarpur.
Rajasthan Patrika, which operates Radio Tadka, also won 14 frequencies. It strengthened its presence in the North with eight of the 14 frequencies in the region—Agra, Srinagar, Muzzaffarpur, Jammu, Gorakhpur, Bilaspur, Bareilly and Allahabad.
Being counted as among the differentiated players, Next Radio Ltd, which operates Radio One, did not win a single frequency. Radio One MD and CEO Vineet Singh Hukmani said, “We opted out as prices were inflated and we did not want to compromise on present profits for speculative growth. The market is growing at 6 per cent and break-even at these auction prices is next to impossible. It seemed that the auctions are an example of financial muscle being flexed for domination with perhaps short to medium term (5–7 years) operating profit taking a back seat.”
The new entrants also performed well with Abhijit Realtors and Infraventures Pvt Ltd spending Rs 6.3 million to pick up two frequencies Akola and Bilaspur respectively.
Renderlive Films and Entertainment won Aligarh for Rs 3.1 million using up the entire amount it had set aside.
Meanwhile, Sarthak Films won the competitive markets of Bhubaneswar and Rourkela, paying up Rs 8.4 crore (Rs 84 million) for both.
Abir Buildcon won Bilaspur for Rs 3.3 million. Similar was the case with Odisha Television which won Rourkela for Rs 1.02 crore (Rs 10.2 million).
Matrubhumi Printing and Publishing (Club FM) picked up one station in Kozhikode for Rs 7.02 crore (Rs 70.2 million), exactly the amount it had put aside for the bidding.
Besides Radio One, Malar Publication (Hello FM) and Pudhari Publications (Tomato FM) won no frequencies.