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New channels defy downturn fears

By Priyanka Joshi in Mumbai
March 30, 2009 14:25 IST
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If you thought television channels in India have been hurt by a slowdown in companies' spend on advertisements, consider this: In three months, Indian viewers have seen the addition of four new channels and two-three channels are expected to debut later this year.

Take, for instance, Real, the latest joint venture between Miditech promoters, Alva Brothers Entertainment and Turner International.

Launched three weeks back, Real is competing with Zee, Colors and Star, among others. Monica Tata, vice-president and deputy GM (Entertainment Networks), Turner International (India), says, "We are targeting our programmes at neo-Indians and till now it's been a mixed reaction for reality and fiction programmes." She claims reality shows like Sarkar Ki Duniya are a hit among audiences in the north while fiction programmes have found audiences in the west. 

The fight among the Hindi GECs, which command advertisement budgets of around Rs 7,000 crore, has just got trickier. FICCI estimates that advertising revenues will suffer and grow at just 13.5 per cent in 2009-13 compared to 16.7 per cent in 2006-08. But digitisation could be the hope for the broadcasters.

"As the average daily TV viewing time goes up, digitisation of distribution has only helped in bringing more audiences," says FICCI's latest report on media and entertainment industry. 

Also joining the Rs 262 billion worth TV industry is the German government-funded international broadcaster Deutsche Welle that has officially launched DW-TV Asia+ for the Indian market. Beginning with limited distribution, DW-TV Asia+ is negotiating for lower carriage fees to sustain its launch in India.

For now, the channel will be available on Sun Direct, DD Direct+, DTH, InCableNet, Hathway, Manthan Broadband Services, Ortel, Siticable, Seven Star, Asianet and Atria networks. Sudeep Malhotra, head, DW-TV in India, insists that they are negotiating deals with other DTH platforms but also lets in, "We are not looking at Indian advertisers rather bringing European advertisers an opportunity to advertise to Indian audiences."

While Turner is betting big on its Hindi entertainment channel Real, audience measurement by TAM Media reveals that the channel clocked just 9 GRPs for its launch week of 1-7 March as compared to Colors, the Viacom-TV18's GEC channel that was launched in July with 81 GRPs.

A week back, Turner International also launched WB, a Warner-branded channel for India featuring blockbuster motion pictures and hit television series. WB is Turner's brand new 24-hour, English-language entertainment channel for India, which will showcase programming licensed from Warner's International Television Distribution.

According to Tata, the group is now a formidable marketing mix for any brand. "In India, Turner now offers a bouquet which includes Cartoon Network and Pogo in the kids' genre, news channels like CNN & CNN-IBN, Hindi general entertainment Real and lastly HBO and WB." WB too is negotiating deals to ensure the channel's availability across five leading DTH platforms that garner nearly 10 million subscribers.

Reliance Entertainment, a unit of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, too has confirmed that the economic slowdown hasn't affected its plans to launch its television channels. Amit Khanna, the chairman of Reliance Entertainment, told Business Standard that Reliance has not deferred its plans to launch its channels, which can be expected later in 2009.

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