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Suryan FM gets ready to turn the radios on

Rina Chandran

CHENNAI, Feb. 26

THE sun always shines on TV, but it is also rising on radio in Tamil Nadu. Suryan FM, promoted by Sun TV, is slated for launch in Coimbatore and Tirunelveli on March 7 and in Chennai in mid-April. Each of the three stations will cover a radius of more than 100 km, and provide 24 hours of entertainment-led Tamil programming, according to the company.

Content will be driven by "light, crisp and easy listening," rather than long and heavy content, according to Managing Director Mr Kalanithi Maran. In keeping with the Prasar Bharati guidelines, there will be only film music and entertainment, no news.

"People commuting do not usually travel more than 25-30 minutes at a stretch," Mr Maran said in a statement. "No one wants talk show formats which go on and on." The channel will be interactive, and each station will have highly localised programming, the statement said. Sun's Telugu FM band, Visakha, was soft launched in Visakhapatnam in February.

The style of broadcasting will be very "American," added Mr M.L. Raghavan, Account Director, JWT, which handles Sun's KTV account and the launch campaign for Suryan. The network has made a huge investment in technology and is confident of delivering high clarity and digital sound, he added. Suryan will air on 105.8 Mhz in Coimbatore and Chennai, and 106.8 Mhz in Tirunelveli.

While Suryan has the first mover advantage, it will soon have to compete with Radio Mirchi (the Times Group) in Chennai, besides AIR FM. The high license fees and uncertain revenue models discouraged others among the original first phase bidders and license holders who intended to launch in the Chennai circle.

Certainly, Suryan has the advantage of being promoted by the Sun network; beside content sharing, even the timing is complementary - as TV viewership is low in the morning, that is one time slot that Suryan can build, said Mr Jayraj Rau, JWT's Vice President and Client Services Director.

Of the three centres, the challenge is perhaps greatest in Tirunelveli, which has no exposure to FM. But there is also a tremendous business opportunity in local advertisers. "The local business community will benefit hugely because the pricing is very reasonable, and well within their reach," Mr Raghavan said. "Also, for media planners, it makes sense to look at the basket of radio and TV."

The group has a history of pricing its product competitively, and this will be key in getting advertisers on board, said Mr Girish Menon, GM, Mindshare Chennai. "FM is probably the most cost-effective medium for local businesses and advertisers looking at city-specific platforms," he said. "Some level of education will be required, but it's a market that's waiting for good-quality programming, which will yield results."

The teaser campaign for Coimbatore and Tirunelveli will launch on March 1 on the Sun TV network and on outdoor hoardings and bus shelters; there will also be on-ground activities in high-traffic spots like theatres and malls.

"The aim of the communication is to build the category - so it has to appeal across segments, and it has to be very contemporary and trendy without alienating the core Tamil-speaking consumer," Mr Rau said.

The company is also giving away 20,000 radio sets in nine towns across the state to households, auto drivers, tea stall owners and the like, to promote the category.

"The challenge is to get people into the category first, and then activate radio listenership, per se," Mr Rau said. "So we have to build the frequency of listening and the average duration of listening."

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