We've strong YouTube biz; not eyeing Netflix, Amazon: ENIL's Panday

Entertainment Network India CEO Prashant Panday
The Rs 635-crore Entertainment Network India (a part of the estimated Rs 10,000-crore Times Group) owns Radio Mirchi, India’s largest radio operator. In a month from now, it will drop the word ‘radio’ from its name. Vanita Kohli-Khandekar spoke to CEO Prashant Panday on the hows and whys. Edited excerpts:

What is new ‘Mirchi’ about?

Earlier, we were known as Radio Mirchi now we will be Mirchi. One of its products is radio, but one product is original video content, live events (like the Mirchi Music Awards, Mirchi Spell Bee and others) and solutions. We ask the marketer, tell us your problem and then create a solution that combines our properties, Radio Jockeys, on ground events in the best way possible. Today, 67 per cent of our revenue, over Rs 425 crore, is from radio; 33 per cent (about Rs 210 crore) is solutions, digital, events et al. We don't see ourselves as Radio Mirchi. Strategically, that means we are not limited to 5 per cent of the ad pie. We are already reaching 67-70 million people online and my radio reach is about 45 million. So, we are transforming from a radio-alone company to a video company as well. There is a whole new corporate identity exercise going on. It will be ready in a month. We are going for (a turnover of) Rs 1,300 crore by 2024, of which radio will be about Rs 700 crore. So, it will grow but will account for 55 per cent of top line. The compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) on solutions and digital is 26 per cent and is radio 11 per cent.

What has Mirchi done in online video so far? 

We have a very strong YouTube business. We are among the top 10-20 independent channels on YouTube(over 8 million subscribers), along with TVF and Pocket Aces. We made and released six hours of original video content in Gujarati, Tamil, Marathi and other languages. This year, we have done 25 hours of content — 15 were sold to MX Player (a Times Group brand) and another 10 are under negotiation with Voot and Hotstar. Next year, we want to go to 100 hours.Our strategy is RRS — regional, reach and snacking. We will focus on regional content, use the radio reach to sell to clients and the content will be of the snacking variety. We make 10-minute episodes. We are not in the Netflix, Amazon universe and we have no illusions of being in that space. We believe this (snacking) is what drives the volumes in that space. And there are lots of clients who don't want to spend crores of rupees, they want to spend Rs 10 lakh or Rs 20 or Rs 40 lakh. 

The market is awash with content firms..

When we started in 2000, we had said ENIL would be India's largest city-centric media company. We had radio, out-of-home (OOH ) and events — they were all city-centric. That is the pivot on which the business was made. ENIL is India's largest city-centric (instead of radio) music and entertainment company. That is what separates us from Star TV, Amazon or Netflix. My core strengths are these 63 offices and the 1,100 people in those offices, and I will leverage that.

All of this growth is coming from the same team. We have 350 creative people and 550 sales people, among others. The creative people already paid for by the radio business. So whatever content I make I have zero incremental cost. Our 550 sales people have access to 10,000 clients, others (such as Pocket Aces) won't have that. 

Radio is under some threat because not all phones now offer an FM tuner..

Look at IRS (Indian Readership Study) data on radio over two years — radio listenership across devices has grown from 104 million (in 2017) to 105 million (in the latest 2019 IRS). Even (listenership on) number  of mobile phones has grown 99 million to 113 million. The  interesting thing is car listenership is rising. The number of male listeners and those who are above 35 years is increasing. Women have given way to men now, that is a big change in the past five to seven years.

Why is that?

Because devices have changed. Women would consume it largely on older phones. Now almost half the newer phones come without FM, so, where would they consume it. Also 10 years ago,  afternoon programming wasn't there on television. So, for the women, television has become far more prominent over five to seven years. However, FM is available on the lower-end phones. So, you are not losing the high-end listeners but that listenership is shifting. At the lower end, the whole Jio phenomenon has given a new lease of life to radio because they hope to sell 500 million of their Rs 1,500 phones, all of them FM enabled. 

Is there a fundamental threat to the medium?

There is a fundamental threat to the medium as defined by FM waves. But there is no threat to the product that is a mix of music, local content, funnies and even personalities. Companies that are purely radio-dependent will see a slowdown.

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