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Football and Music Make Lig Radyo

Creative approach pays off for Turkish radio station

Lig Radyo Program Director Yetkin Etkin in the on-air studio. Photo courtesy of Murat Seymen. ISTANBUL — Although an alleged match-fixing scandal recently shook the world of football in Turkey, Lig (League) Radyo, which has defined the sport as its raison d’etre since its inception in 2006, is not suffering from ebbing popularity.

Latest audience figures show that this sport-related station enjoys a place among the top 20 most listened-to radio stations nationwide, although its coverage on the FM band is restricted to the country’s Marmara region.

Niche market

Fortunately for Lig Radyo this region is the most densely populated in Turkey, including cities like Istanbul, Kocaeli and Bursa, which are together home to some 18 million inhabitants. While the area’s overcrowded FM band has a host of market leaders, which air predominately Turkish hits or international top 40 music, Lig Radyo with its six frequencies covering 10 cities and their surrounding areas has gained momentum in its relatively short history.

“Since sport has a very serious following in Turkey, we don’t really compete directly with other stations — we simply fill a niche,” said Murat Seymen, Lig Radyo production manager. “The listener’s usual drive time choice has already been made in favor of radio stations with a mainly national music format.”

Cukurova Medya Group’s Radio General Manager Giray Güngör, Lig Radyo General Manager Mehmet Ayan, Cukurova Radio Group’s Technical Director Bülent Baygül and the IT and Production Manager for Lig Radyo Murat Seymen initiated the Lig Radyo project to fill the sports gap on the FM band.

As part of the Akşam Medya Group, privately owned commercial Lig Radyo, which is located in a high-rise building in the Şişli district of Istanbul, has a full-time staff of 15 that mainly produces live shows focusing on the Spor Toto Süper Lig, the Turkish first division football league.

While Lig Radyo initially used the facility of its sister station Alem FM, it later equipped its own studio and now runs everything from its own technical infrastructure.

The studio signal relays directly to the Türksat 3A satellite and from there it transfers to the 14 individual transmitters in the Marmara region.

Sporting the slogan “Bol bol futbol, bol bol müzik” (Lots of football, lots of music), Lig Radyo pushes a mainly talk format featuring shows where football experts preview and review matches. In addition to the football morning show hosted by Ayan on weekdays from 7 to 10 a.m., betting shows make up an important part of the programming scheme. On weekends, Lig Radyo airs the broadcasts of its sister TV station Lig TV, which features programs before and after the Spor Toto Süper Lig’s most important matches. Since Lig Radyo can’t broadcast the actual match, it runs an alternative show and reports changes in the score and adds commentary. In general, the station transmits 95 percent Turkish pop music; the rest is reserved for traditional Turkish music.

In the first two years after its launch, Lig Radyo had a competitive edge over its direct rivals (NTV Spor, TRT Spor Radyo and Radyo Spor) by holding the rights to exclusively broadcast the Spor Toto Süper Lig’s matches for two consecutive seasons (2007–08 and 2008–09) on its FM frequencies, but now this endeavor is too costly to pay off.

“As of this season, no radio station in Turkey is airing the Turkish first division football league’s football matches, simply because the Turkish Football Federation is not willing to lower the yearly fee of $3.5 million for these rights,” said Seymen.

The 2010 live matches, which were covered jointly by public broadcaster TRT Radyo and the private sport radio station NTV Spor Radyo brought an end to the era of listening to live football matches on FM in Turkey.

Despite no longer opting to purchase the rights to broadcast the Turkish football league’s actual matches, creativity and quality programming (in addition to strong media partners, such as Lig TV) continue to guarantee Lig Radyo a place on the radio broadcast map.

Tayfun Kesgin reports on the industry for Radio World from Muğla, Turkey.