Radio Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

In local business magazine, Business Today, the Best Brands survey results for 2011 were published recently, you can buy it for RO 1.500 from most shops that sell magazines. In it, it reported that Hi FM had 39% of all expatriates polled for which radio station they listened to, whereas Merge had 5%. Quite the difference indeed, and amongst the Omani people polled, Hi FM had 13% of the vote versus Merge's 3%.

A rare snap of Darren attempting to fit the mic in his mouth

Now, here on Ze Blog I have run 2 polls asking you what you listened too, and both times (once when Merge launched, and again 2 months in) Hi FM were still the clear winner. Another way to look at things is that Merge have captured 5% of the expatriate market when they had 0% previously. But still, I'd imagine there are some uncomfortable people at Sabco at the moment, it's a fairly poor performance, especially after all the hype last year. Its a shame the data doesnt have some time relativity with it, but thankfully, you readers helped out and we have our own set of data - it seems people tuned in when Merge launched, but then went back to other stations or MP3's or whatever after some time. The real stinger for Merge is that this a publicly published poll and you have to assume advertising clients will consider this when making the decision to advertise with Merge or Hi FM.

Hi FM had probably their strongest year last year, closing some major advertising deals, the arrival of Marcus and a string of successful music concerts held in conjunction with Alive Events. It seems that Darren, Erin, Kathy & Marcus are dominating Chris, Rummy, Sayeh and Sami at the moment, lets see what Chris and his rebel alliance pull out of the hat this year.

Even the Ewoks over on Oman FM 90.4 (can you believe they still dont have a website?!) have got 17% of the expat audience and 27% of the Omani audience - destroying even Hi FM's audience base amongst Omanis. And rumours are circulating that Oman FM is about to get a total overhaul and new management (some sort of split, or re-positioning) from it's parent Ministry.

Oman FM's boom mike left a lot to be desired

So the big question for Radio in the Sultanate for 2012 is, will the Ewoks wake up and recognize their share of the audience and modernize their radio station? I wonder if they will hire in a Chewbacca to give them some new blood or carry on as they are? One could argue that they don't care and will just rumble on, I'd like to see them leverage their position and present a better polished range of shows. Perhaps better production of their shows, and perhaps they could try transmitting in true Stereo instead of the maxed out - defaulted to Mono - nonsense that they currently broadcast in. Perhaps they will even get a website!

Hi FM have continued to innovate, and have now rolled out Radio Text for those of you with fancy enough radio's in your cars. The title of the track being played pops up on the radio, and cycles with the name of the radio show being broadcast at the time - a nice touch and sets them technically above the rest.

Dont forget, I'm currently giving away 2 VIP tickets worth RO 100 to see James Blunt live in concert on February 15th - you gotta be in it to win it, so enter now!

More tomorrow.

le fin.

Radio Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Radio Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Reviewed by Sythe on Sunday, January 08, 2012 Rating: 5


  1. Hi
    Enjoyed the article . Yes a positive war between the FM stations in Oman though I must say that I listen to all three, just switching the stations and am enjoying it.
    Well it's good that 90.4 has started thinking of revamping itself. They have started messaging now but it is a pain trying to collect their cash prizes as too many unwanted hassles.
    Hi Fm has brought in many musical shows though they do not give many prizes.
    Merge has lot of prizes in their show.
    Oman FM has bounty of prizes especially during the Ramadhan season.
    So let's have positive war among the FM stations to outdo each other.
    Hip hip hurray
    Wishes for a good year

  2. Well, maybe time is all Merge needs. I remember when Hi FM started and was not impressed for the first two years (all - presumably license free - 80s music!). And as Viji says, probably most people switch between stations. I personally cannot stand Hi FMs morning show and generally think that Fyke seems to be well on his way on becoming a radio icon here in Oman. But Oman Radio needs to fill the rest of the day qualitatively as well, as I with many others switch over to HiFM as soon as Fyke on the mike finishes...

  3. merge has carl cox ... Seals the deal for me. The rest of the stations play nothing but dime a dozen pop garbage including roger sanchez. Nice try hi fm

  4. I am scratching my head, thinking about the article. My point of view is that all three stations are absolute rubbish. I can understand the government station being from a different planet, but HI-FM is the absolute worst channel I have ever listened to. Anywhere. Ever. What Merge must do to quickly and emphatically kill off Hi-FM is offer something DIFFERENT! Stop relying on formulas and take bloody chance on some local music, local personalities etc. Get off the "British" regime of a crap morning DJ with no sense of humour and dumb "trivia" questions as entertainment.
    In short, stop treating your audience like dimwitted fools.
    Back to the iPod for me...ggrrrrr

  5. Hi All,
    Enjoyed reading your comments.
    I personally think that all the radio shows are a bit shocking!
    Hi Fm has these expat D.J's who try hard to sound professional but are truthfully just amateurs... Merge needs to put some work into their music and I find it quite hard to understand the female presenter in the afternoon?! However, they do have Chris Fisher who i think is fab :) His voice is chirpy and fun which makes me keen to listen to him. He is coming in just under par of Rachel 'Roo' Howarth. Now that womwn was good. Fun and chirpy and actually a decent presenter who seemed to know what she was doing. Imagine a Fisher & Roo show..?
    And as for 90.40 I think they DEF need a re-vamp and new presenters who actually make the radio sound fun!!! Here's hoping they up their game soon, as Hi Fm is just not floating my boat anymore, and Merge is slowly boring me... Come on 90.40 up your game please :)

    p.s... TO BLOGGER, I notice now that HI FM are giving you free tickets that you are being much nicer about their place in the market ;) Lol... It's radio wars after all... keep up the opinions.

  6. Darren looks like he has a big-pimping combover in that picture!

  7. And what is your definition of Amateur? You saying Rachael was a woman who knew what she was doing leads me to believe that you know nothing about commercial radio. The same stupid trivia questions every single day. Please.
    I am so tired of the haters giving their "opinion" on what they think about the radio stations here.
    Usually the majority of comments are garbage from friends of people who work at these stations and want to slam the competition.
    How about some constructive criticizing? Wait, I forgot I am in Muscat where people hide behind an "anonymous" post on the internet.
    We are in Muscat, what do you expect? Radio stations can't even do the things they are supposed to do here because of the corruption and lack of experienced people available to work for them.
    I actually take offense to your amateur comment however. I know a lot of the people at Hi Fm and they are anything but amateur. Go sit in the studio for a whole day and see for yourself what goes into running a radio station. Better yet, try hosting a four to five hour show, trying to please everyone. It is impossible.
    Everyone is entitled to their opinion after all, but remember opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one.


  8. Thanks for all your comments!

    In a direct answer to the anonymous commenter asking me to keep the playing field fair - I ripped into HiFM & Darren personally so much in the past, another blogger actually ratted me out to Darren and told him both me and my wife's names (thanks for that) so when I finally felt bad enough to actually email darren and introduce myself, he said hi - and hows your wife **** doing?

    HiFM give me tickets to give away on the blog because I have an audience that they feel is worth the cost of 2 tickets to get exposure and promotion for their shows on another media stream other than their airwaves.

    Merge so far have ran a tweet-up where their manager struck my name from the guest list because he didnt like something I wrote in a comment on another blog (which was entirely true).

    Then they were the "media partner" with The Experiment who ran the Hed Kandi event before Ramadan last year. No one from Merge showed up until Sami appeared after midnight, and I contacted Merge asking for tickets to give away and got no answer - I got the tickets for that gig through a personal connection I had with The Experiment - I even bought my own tickets to support my friends venture. They also promoted the Yanni concert last year, and again didn't respond to my emailed request for tickets to give away.

    So, I am aligned with Hi FM right now because they interact with me, feed me news to blog about and also let me do what I like to do best: give stuff away. I am an equal opportunity giver away of free shit, it's just that Merge don't give me anything to give away.

    Erin did morning show's for a short while last year, and I said straight away I didnt like it. To the point that I think Erin has a grudge against me for publicly writing about it - so it's not all rose-tinted sunglasses with daises spewing from Darren & his team's asses.

    Just the other day, around 8AM January 3rd 2012, Merge's link went down and they had dead air for AGES. Why didnt they have a back up? I dont know, it's just not - to my unprofessional mind - indicative of a professional and well run radio station.

    So, to answer your comment to me - I do still keep it balanced, but it's hard when 90.4 just refuse to acknowledge the internet exists, and Merge management dont talk to me, other than the odd cake-based tweet from Chris Fisher.

    Thank you for your comment.

  9. I think Mr Anonymous works at HI FM....!!! Hit a nerve when told they were amateur...!!! Ouch...
    Sorry to offend but I just say what I and many other collegues of mine think.
    I think Darren is the best by far at HI but im not too keen on how 'American' the show has gone... As for the prizes I totally agree HI are the best and they also put on very good concerts.

  10. HI FM is GREAT (besides Erin) So ignore the 'haters' and keep rolling out the cool tunes... LOVE HI :)

  11. Actually, Sythe, I do not have a
    You write what you write. It's cool. I have been working in radio for almost 20 years. I love what I do. Unfortunately, like one poster said (Thanks BTW), no one is really aware of what it takes to actually do a radio show. I learned along time you cannot please everyone, but at least respect what I do and respect everyone else that works on the radio in Oman.
    We work in a job where even if we are having the worst day in the world, when we open the mic we have to sound happy. Imagine how difficult that really is?
    For the person who thinks HI-FM is great besides me, thanks for the compliment on the cool tunes. I actually program the music : )(One of the best things about my job)For the record, I am GREAT to someone. : )
    I think that we can all agree that Muscat has a wide variety of nationalities. Brits, Americans, Indian, Egyptians...Etc..Everyone has their personal preferences. That is what makes us unique!
    Sythe, I love your blog, even when I get "hated" on. LOL
    It's all good!
    God Bless!

    Erin @->--

  12. I think we are getting there, slowly,I usually swop between stations & I must admit I prefer HiFm (& no I don't work for them or know anyone who does). In the "old days" I used to listen to "Fike on the mike" but puff the magic dragon killed it for me, then I started listening to HiFm, which I liked, BUT they did repeat the same song a lot. I really liked RachyRoo, she had a great radio voice the sort you could hear the laughter in and imagine her being a happy bunny.Hearing someone chirpy used to put me in a good mood on the way to work in the mornings.Personally I don't think the lady who replaced her, Erin was very good, she sounded "robotic",I like Darren, he is witty and thinks on his feet. Kathy is great,a funny and likeable lady. They are terrible at giving out prizes, I'm still waiting for a nawras dongle I won over a year ago!I'v tried listening to "Merge" but found it a bit boring & I didn't like the music they played. I'm suprised they don't have back up for techincal problems,or market themselves better.I do like Chris Fisher, infact I only listen if he is on air.Everyone will have favourites and that's what should up their game, a lot of room for improvement. Do you remember "our tune" from UK radio years back? YES I'm old school!!!where they read out letters sent in by listeners, telling their personal story & why a certain tune was "their song", well that would go down a treat here (us soppy women love a romance & nostalgia), mabe some shows for the kids to listen in to would be nice, like on the school runs stuck in traffic.Anyhow I don't want to bore you, just giving my input. Take care all.

  13. Marcus is the weak link in HiFM. The guy sucks big time and his jokes are not funny, it makes him sound dumb!!

  14. 95.9 hi fm Erin and 90.4 Charlie Cakes does it for me- both ladies are charismatic and entertaining, you actually WANT to listen!
    I worked with a radio station in the UK before, so i also have to say that the mistakes and repetition in songs is too much!


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