Media: Thai radio group out to challenge leader

BANGKOK: In a challenge to GMM Grammy, three major radio content providers and operators - Traffic Corner Holding (Traf), BEC-Tero Entertainment and Virgin Radio - are looking at merging their operations to create Thailand's largest radio network operator.

Traf, which is partially owned by the family of prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, has signed a memorandum of understanding with BEC Tero to operate the radio station, with a 50 per cent reach of radio listeners nationwide. Virgin currently operates its radio stations under Virgin BEC-Tero Radio Services (VBTR), which is jointly owned by BEC-Tero Entertainment and Virgin Radio Asia (VRA). "We want to combine the radio business operations of (Traf's) TCR with VBTR to materialise our plan of turning the subsidiary into a leader in the domestic radio market," said Traf's chief executive officer, Surapong Triamcharnchai. "The MoU will boost the chances for TCR to further strengthen its radio business operations and reach."

With more than 20 FM radio frequencies under its belt, the merged entity would overtake GMM Grammy to become the country's largest provider of radio services.

GMM Grammy has a total of six stations. GMM Grammy saw its share fall when Virgin Radio Asia was set up, which was positioned as more of a music station rather than a talk/games frequency. "It took away some listeners of GMM Grammy, who were fed up of the hourly games and thus switched to Virgin," said Wannee Ruttanaphon, managing director, Initiative Media.

According to Nielsen Media Research, radio advertising generated spend of 3.92 billion baht (US$95 million) during in the first seven months of the year, a five per cent increase over the same period last year.

"If this network gets very strong, it may command higher advertising rates, which would effect the small to medium-sized advertisers," said Wannee.

Currently, VBTR operates four frequencies in Bangkok and the suburbs, while TCR operates 20 frequencies nationwide. "The merger will give BEC many more opportunities, as Traffic Corners and Virgin provide completely different radio program formats," said Wannee.

Traffic Corner is also involved in television programming and magazine, which could further strengthen the BEC network, which also has a presence in these sectors.

TOP 10 RADIO STATIONS IN THAILAND

Rank Baht 000's

(Jan-July 2004)

1 FM 106.5 Green Wave 327,527

2 90.5 Business News Wave 236,504

3 100.0 Jor Sor 100 216,573

4 93.5 EFM 215,510

5 94.0 BKK Radio 192,657

6 91.5 Hot Wave 177,747

7 89.0 Virgin Soft 172,459

8 103.5 Modern Love 155,848

9 91.0 Sor Vor Por 91 145,740

10 105.5 Virgin Smooth 120,617

Source: Nielsen Media Research

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