Times Media Group has made good its intention to acquire more broadcasting companies, this time buying a 65% stake in Mpumalanga’s RISE fm. The commercial station was previously known as MpowerFM.
TMG’s head of radio, Tony Mallam, says RISE fm’s positioning has been “carefully realigned” as an adult urban contemporary station, as it was originally pegged to be but which “never truly went that way”. Mallam says TMG has taken the station back to its intended format “based on an analysis of the demographics of the region, and within the parameters of our broadcast licence”.
The repositioning process continued with the change in name because, Mallam says, the station’s financial difficulties, and its “decline into business rescue” damaged the brand “irrevocably” from a consumer and trade perspective.
“Furthermore with the launch of Power FM last year, which if we had retained the name, we would only have confused advertisers. We needed a new, fresh name that exemplified Mpumalanga and the ‘rise’ of an aspirational brand,” he says.
It’s a well-known fact that commercial radio licences in South Africa are hard to come by. MPowerFM held the only commercial licence for the province, which made the acquisition “tremendously appealing,” Mallam says. And, of course, it slotted nicely into TMG’s strategy of selling non-core assets (Nu Metro, Exclusive Books for example), and investment into the broadcast sector “locally and into Africa”. RISE fm is the company’s first radio asset. TMG, Mallam reports, followed this with the acquisition of Vuma FM in KwaZulu-Natal.
MPowerFM was launched with much fanfare in December 2007 by African Media Entertainment (which owns OFM and AlgoaFM, among other holdings) and Direng Investment Holdings, founded by Kenny Setzin, who was an executive director of New Africa Investments Ltd (Nail), a listed media group with media interests.
But, says Mallam, disagreement between shareholders “resulted in funds drying up, and a narrowly niched format prevented a strong audience and limited advertising appeal.
“Eventually the station could not meet its obligations and was taken off air by Sentech.”
Mallam says the previous owners now hold 35% in proportion to their investment. “This is positive as they have an opportunity to recoup their original costs and share in the upside, as opposed to having lost all. Management structure locally is unchanged, but for now I will take the MD role. We have also taken on board the services of Ferdinand Mabalane, a highly experienced programming expert to oversee both stations,” he says.
TMG, as the majority shareholder, has a turnaround strategy in place. “RISE fm is now backed by the resources and the financial strength of TMG with a dedicated and experienced team to ensure the growth and longevity of the station,” says Mallam. “The station has seen a 180 degree transformation with change in name, refocused format, investment in people, infrastructure and especially marketing with professional management.”
Mallam says a two-pronged marketing and advertising plan has been formulated using consumer and trade media coupled with “extensive use of social media and physical presence around the province together with traditional media advertising”.
“We will be linking to all major events in the province using outside broadcast vehicle and high visibility. For the trade we will ensure that the new brand is made visible through road shows and close engagement between TMG’s advertising sales divisions under the leadership of Trevor Ormerod, GM: Group Sales of TMG,” he explains.
Local competition comes from the SABC which, Mallam says, have a more broad-based mandate. “Jacaranda has some impact, as do 5FM and Metro. But we are the only commercial station broadcasting from Mpumulanga, and intend to capitalise on that.”
A new presenter line up has been announced, aligned with the urban adult programming. “We have retained many of the original team, but listener favourites such as Vibe and Riimz have re-joined after working elsewhere. What is very exciting is the young new local talent that has been introduced,” Mallam says.
For more on programming, Rise Show Blurbs Final