Rediffusion changing tack to stay alive a year after relaunch

Ms Chang giving a demonstration of a live online podcast to potential business partners at the Rediffusion office. The station's own podcast, The Eeva Show, features Ms Chang interviewing interesting personalities.
Ms Chang giving a demonstration of a live online podcast to potential business partners at the Rediffusion office. The station's own podcast, The Eeva Show, features Ms Chang interviewing interesting personalities.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Owner is aggressively cutting costs, seeking new collaborators and reorganising business

When former DJ Eeva Chang Mei Hsiang bought Rediffusion, she had big plans to turn around the flagging radio station by raising its appeal to the young and going online.

More than a year and some $4 million later, Ms Chang and company are back to the drawing board.

The mobile app that it launched last year to allow users to tune in to old Rediffusion programmes for a monthly subscription fee of US$1.99 (S$2.55) has been pulled.

Ms Chang told The Sunday Times that the app targeted Rediffusion's older fans, but not all of them used smartphones.

Rediffusion also had to pay 20 cents to a server for each hour of programming a user listened to.

"It worked out to a lot of money and we were not able to support that."

The app had about 20,000 downloads in the one year it was on the market.

In its heyday, Rediffusion had more than 100,000 subscribers, but the number dwindled to no more than 4,000, which led to the company closing in 2012.

Ms Chang originally wanted to recruit DJs to produce content for Rediffusion, but that has been scrapped too.

"When I first bought Rediffusion, no one thought I would make it but I was fearless. But when I started working, I found out it was really tough," said Ms Chang.

The former Rediffusion DJ had bought the brand, its materials and broadcasting facilities for an undisclosed sum after the company ceased operations.

Despite the problems, Ms Chang has not given up on the brand.

She will aggressively cut costs and reorganise the business in another bid to keep the station alive.

As a start, one community club and four residents' committees (RCs) will play Rediffusion's old programmes - such as stories by Cantonese storyteller Lee Dai Sor - in its premises under a new collaboration.

The community club and RCs will pay the radio station a fee, which Ms Chang declined to disclose.

The radio station will also open its platform to allow anyone to host its own programmes from next month, she said.

"I believe Rediffusion should be for everyone," Ms Chang said. "You will produce, record and edit your content and we will help you to put it up on our platform. Of course, we have to approve the programme first."

But whether one needs to pay for using Rediffusion's platform depends largely on the situation, she said.

"If you are just a student aspiring to be a DJ, we might not charge. But if you represent a company, then you will have to pay."

Rediffusion now has its own podcast, The Eeva Show, in which Ms Chang interviews interesting personalities.

It also has a video-on-demand cable television channel, Textbook Candy.

The channel's programmes centre on the Chinese textbooks used in schools. Started this year, the channel now has more than 2,400 subscribers, said Ms Chang.

She hopes to break even next year to cover the radio station's operating costs, but added that she is still some way from recouping the money she has put in.

Over the past week, Ms Chang met potential partners at Rediffusion's office, where they discussed collaborations. She plans to make it a weekly affair.

"I'm confident about this new business model. We've scaled down and cut down some costs, and we are hoping to do the most with whatever we have," she said.

leepearl@sph.com.sg