The Times Group’s FM Radio services Radio Mirchi has recently partnered with Bharti Airtel and VAS company Spice Digital to launch “Mirchi Mobile” radio for Airtel’s Mobile customers. The deal appears to be similar to the one signed earlier between OnMobile Global and Reliance ADAG owned BIG FM, except that in this case, the service has been launched.

Being launched are 12 Radio Mirchi stations from across India, initially for customers in the Delhi and Mumbai circles: subscribers can call  59830, and listen to 100 minutes of Radio Mirchi content for Rs. 10 per week; this means that the price for Mobile Radio has been reduced significantly, though we should also point out that, over the same length of time (say 30 minutes), comparatively less music content will be delivered, replaced with advertisements and quotes from Radio Jockeys. The choice of Delhi and Mumbai for the launch are also interesting, since both metropolitan cities are home to a large migrant, often seasonal, population.

MediaNama spoke with Nandan Srinath, Head of Mobility for the Times Group on a number of issues, including whether they have the government approval to rebroadcast music, on serving advertising, using mobile analytics for content, and the low pricing of the product.

Q. You’re able to access content for a particular city from any part of the country. How do you deal with this when it comes to the circle-wise limitations put by the government on FM licenses?

It is not streaming of the same radio channel, it’s not the same feed. This is as close to live radio as you can get: it’s a combination of music, advertising, jock elements and branding that a radio station does. The consumer is consuming two rights: he’s consuming the rights to music from the technology partner and telecom operator (Spice Digital and Airtel). He’s also consuming the content from Radio Mirchi where it owns the licenses for its own content: the branding and jock-talk. Our job is limited to providing the expertise and playlists, essentially everything that is non-music.

The jock-talk is very very similar, but not exactly the same, and the consumer won’t know the difference unless he’s listening to the content simultaneously.

Q. How did you decide the pricing: Rs. 10 per week for upto 100 minutes?

Radio Mirchi really didn’t take any pricing decisions for Mobile Radio, for that you’ll have to speak with Airtel. We’re looking at it to see what this price point brings. Suffice to say the premise is that the consumption of mobile radio will have far more frequency and depth. . What my understanding of music on demand was that maybe 4-5 sessions per month for an average user, for 4-5 minutes each. Because radio tends to be a far more sticky product, and even if those numbers are low, the frequency will increase and the time spent on this channel will be far longer. To get far more intensity of per minute usage, you need to keep a low price point. Else, people will consume radio like they consume music on demand (ED: i.e. existing Mobile Radio).

Q. How do you go about programming for the mobile? What kind of data will you have access to, that will differentiate your programming on the mobile from that on radio.

The fascinating part for the content guys, which is us in this case, is to be able to measure what goes on. How is the paid mobile radio different from the free experience. Terrestrial radio is consumed at 130-140 minutes a day by an average listener. At any price point, that level of consumption would be prohibitively expensive on mobile.

We are waiting with lots of interest to look at the data in terms of…here’s the deal, you will get far tighter metrics for Mobile Radio than you will ever get for any survey on traditional radio. To that extent, over the next 3-8 weeks, we hope to see how the mobile consumer is different in terms of how he consumes. If we find that an average consumer is consuming only 10-12 minutes and is getting far lesser music than he ought to, then we may look at fashioning a revised offering. As it stands today, there is great value in the surprise that radio brings, and there will be lots of content aside from music, and the element of surprise that goes with radio. We will use the data to figure out whether there are differentiated offerings that we can produce.

Q. The other part of having analytics is the advertising piece. How are planning to serve advertising? Have you got advertisers on board?
It’s going to be the same advertising that is being played out on the Mirchi terrestrial network.

Q. Also, you’re making users pay for listening to that advertising?
That’s right, but we have a strong belief that there is content value in advertising as well. Advertiser today is not paying any incremental money for being carried on mobile. We’re not making additional money from the mobile advertisng, and a lot of these feeds have very little advertising. Radio is not an oversold medium, and the results will tell how consumers react.

Q. So why not dispense with the advertising entirely since you’re not moentizing it?
Like I said, we believe that there is strong content value in advertising as well.

Q. Is there a possibility that advertising on radio will be bundled or sold separately?
Right now there is no concept of bundling. Whoever is buying advertising on the terrestrial network of radio, also gets ads on the mobile as well.Having said that, there is no data, no metrics for this. As we build metrics there, then we’ll take a decision. It is a mirrored product of what is going on in our actual product (Radio). My personal opinion is that it will not monetize uniquely because in the traditional advertising space, there is downward pressure on advertising.

Q. In terms of the content of the advertising you’re going to run, is anything blacklisted? On Airtel mobile radio, are Vodafone ads blacklisted?
No, they’re not. Also, the service will hopefully be on other telecom operator networks as well, so it will be broad based and neutral. I dont think anybody will be at an advantage or disadvantage.

Related:
OnMobile And BIG FM To Provide Mobile Radio In IVR; Still Going Strong?
— OnMobile Adds Playlists To Mobile Music Streaming With M-Radio Gold