Archive for February, 2008

Greycells18 launches ‘Topper’ channel

February 27, 2008

Greycells18 Media has launched an curriculum based education TV channel ‘Topper’ which is part of the Topper Integrated Learning System.

‘Topper’ will initially cater to classes IX to XII, and provide validated curriculum based content that will comply with CBSE and other related state boards. Topper will initially cover Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics.

Greycells18 Media is a joint venture created by Sunil Khanna and Sricharan Iyengar. It is co-promoted by Raghav Bahl of Network18 and Shantanu Prakash of Educomp, in their personal capacities and Network18’s private equity initiative Capital18.

Sunil Khanna, Co-founder, Greycells18 said, “We are happy to announce the launch of the first curriculum based learning system. Statistics show that there are approximately 300 million kids who enrolled in schools across India. With limited seats available in colleges and premium professional courses, it is imperative to have a strong primary and secondary education background.”

Sricharan Iyengar, Co-founder, Greycells18 said, “‘Topper’ features a group of Star teachers who have been carefully identified. With exceptional track records- iconic and inspirational– these individuals come armed with experience gathered from teaching in the best institutes of the world, coupled with a passion for their subject.”

Raghav Bahl, Co-promoter, GreyCells 18 said, “It is about time India looked beyond TV as a medium of entertainment like in the west. We are confident that ‘Topper’ learning system will not only broaden people horizon as TV as a medium of education but will also revolutionize the education system in India.”

Shantanu Prakash, Co-promoter, GreyCells 18 adds, “We are happy to acknowledge that we have an extremely qualified team onboard to prepare the content for “Topper”. It will impart education to students in a completely different manner. The content has been designed and packaged in a way, which not only make education exciting but will also comply with the syllabus of most of the boards in India.”

Karuna hits out at Marans, again

February 27, 2008

Piqued by the big crowd and the huge display of many rival AIADMK advertisements in the Maran owned paper celebrating leader Jayalalithaa’s 60th birthday Tamil Nadu CM Karunanidhi has faulted his grandnephews for the abuse of DMK’s sun symbol in those advertisements.

He was particularly incensed by the advertisements placed in Maran’s Tamil Murasu by AIADMK functionary P.K.Sekar Babu, hailing Jayalalithaa as the vanguisher of Suriya Kudumbam (Sun family). Babu’s reference to the first family of the DMK whose symbol is the rising sun further irked him.

Angry that the Maran brothers had permitted such ‘abuse’ of the party symbol, propagated by none other than the DMK founder Annadurai,Karunanidhi in a poem, penned for the occasion wanted to know why they (Maran’s) chose to name their TV channel after the sun.

Commenting on the episode, a Sun TV official said, it was a “pure business matter” and “there was nothing political in the channel’s handling of the paid advertisements.”

Of late, the Sun News has been giving prominence to the opposition politicians, particularly the AIADMK and its leader Jayalalithaa. The huge AIADMK advertisements in Tamil Murasu inspired a rumour among political circles that the Maran brothers Kalanidhi and Dayanidhi had called on Jayalalithaa to greet her on her birthday.

NewsX signs up ITV as editorial advisor

February 27, 2008

INX News has signed up with Karan Thapar’s company ITV (Infotainment Television Private Limited) as editorial advisor on its soon-to-be-launched English News Channel, NewsX.

The advisory services will comprise a review of progress to date and consultancy on future editorial development of the channel. Karan Thapar is recognized as one of India’s finest news personalities.

Established in 2001, ITV has done work for the BBC, Channel News Asia, CNBC TV18, CNN-IBN and Doordarshan amongst other channels.

Arup Ghosh, Newsroom head, UNX News, commented, “I am very pleased that Karan’s ITV has come on board as Editorial Advisor to NewsX. With its vast experience and unmatched reputation, I am sure ITV will contribute immensely to our vision of a world class news channel for NewsX.”

Thapar said, “ITV is delighted to accept a special project from NewsX to advise it on how to become one of the most exciting news channels available in India.”

Indrani Mukerjea, Chairperson, INX News, said, “With the expertise of the editorial and operations team at NewsX, we are ready to provide the highest quality of intelligent news for today’s audience.”

English GECs: Localisation and variety the road ahead

February 27, 2008

For the English general entertainment genre, 2007 was the year when they looked at increasing variety in their offerings and breaking out of a mould. The aim was also to increase relevance in some cases through local shows. Besides, the channels brought in the latest shows at the same time as their US premieres.

Tam data for C&S 15+ shows that among the three channels – AXN, Star World and Zee Café – AXN’s channel share has been well over 50 per cent. In August, it touched a peak of 66 per cent. Zee Café has managed to close the gap on Star World to an extent. In March, Star World’s channel share was 34 per cent versus 24 per cent for Zee Café. In April, the gap came down, and for the month May Zee café overtook Star World. Its share was 21 per cent versus 15 per cent for Star World.

Since then while Star World has been ahead, the gap was close. This was until September. After that, the gap widened again. In December, while Star World has a share of 29 per cent Zee Café has a share of 13 per cent.

In terms of the top 20 shows, AXN has got 16 in that list. The top entry interestingly enough is a film Spiderman 2. Other shows that made it include Guinness World Records, Ripley’s Believe it or Not and David Blaine.

Still, it is not as though all was smooth for the leader. In January, AXN was banned for a month by the I&B Ministry for what it termed as “objectionable content.” The ministry had taken issue with the channel repeatedly telecasting such programmes such as World’s Sexiest Commercials. The ministry found these programmes to be against good taste or decency that could adversely affect public morality.

AXN India business head Sunder Aaron puts on a brave face, saying that no corrective measures were really required as all programming conforms to Indian norms and guidelines for content. “As with any new season, we had new television series and programmes which we refreshed the channel’s schedule with,” says Aaron.

In terms of the highlights of 2007, Aaron notes that there was a strong mix of local and international fare. “We had the gorgeous Sameera Reddy host the second AXN Action Awards. This is an on-air award show that felicitates the action heroes from Bollywood.

“We also satiated the viewers’ needs with the premiere of the internationally acclaimed series –Damages and new seasons for the loyal fans of CSI: Miami, Alias and CSI: NY.”

AXN also strengthened its focus on the reality genre. The highlight here was the second season of The Amazing Race Asia. To break out of the mould, the channel aimed to showcase diverse content within the reality genre. So the likes of Top Chef, Top Design and So You Think You Can Dance were featured.

To hook viewers to its fare, two timeslots were created. “The Reality Stash” slot showcases reality content from 9 – 10 pm. This is followed by “Elite Weekdays,” showcasing international drama series at 11 pm.

Aaron adds that the non-primetime band has grown in importance for the channel. “Our scheduling of programmes across non-primetime is also well-thought-out, keeping in mind the viewing pattern of our target audience.”

He offers the example of “Elite Weekends” which is the non-primetime slot on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 3 pm. The aim is to allow the dedicated fan base to sit back and enjoy catching up on their favourite international series which they have missed out over the week. “We have, therefore, ensured they get to watch all the series back to back and have clearly positioned the band as – ‘Catch all the week’s action on AXN Elite Weekends’.”

As always localisation plays a key role for the channel. Besides the earlier mentioned The Amazing Race Asia initiative, the channel also finished the shoot Magic Asia. This showcased two street magicians Chris Korn and JB Benn. Aaron notes that the show actually touches a chord with the real spirit of Mumbai and is slated to go on air in March this year. One show done at a pan-Asian level was the boxing show The Contender Asia. The show produced by the czar of reality television Mark Burnett emulates the original concept with Muay Thai fighters.

Over the years, localisation has been playing a huge role in positive brand-building as it showcases the channel’s endeavour to identify and fulfill the viewers’ needs. The main value is in sustaining a loyal fan base besides helping manage and create an ideal mix of original and acquired content that facilitates long-term brand-building.

Aaron attributes AXN being ahead constantly to firstly having a clear brand positioning. “I think that we follow the very basic principle of being absolutely clear of our target audiences’ needs and showcasing the kind of content that they wish to see. We have also been dynamic enough to not get stuck in a mould and constantly showcase fresh and innovative programming. This prompted our move to broadbase our reality offerings. We have also been the only international channel to create so many original productions.”

For Zee Café, the strategy has been different in that it decided not to focus much on local shows. In the past, it had done shows like Bombay Talking but the channel’s business head Neil Chakravarti feels that Indian audiences are not ready for Indian fiction. The focus rested on showcasing the latest from the US. Since September, it started to bring in shows from the US at the same time as their premiere there.

The aim was also to pick and choose shows that Indians would find the most relevant. Therefore, four of the shows including The Big Bang Theory and Aliens in America have South Asian characters. The new programming strategy had been decided after six months of intensive research among Indian viewers who said they learnt a lot about new shows from the internet or sites like YouTube. They did not want to wait several months or years later to watch them.

Star World’s focus, meanwhile, rested partly on the tried and tested shows like Desperate Housewives, Heroes and Ugly Betty. Complementing this were special events like Miss World and the Grammy Awards.

Star World tried to break out of the mould as well. To identify the need of the market it revamped its schedules. For instance, it created an afternoon slot for youth/women with shows like Bold and the Beautiful, General Hospital, etc. The block is called essential afternoons. Star VP content and communication Prem Kamath says, “We’ve seen a change in the genre preference for English entertainment wherein comedy is the flavour of the season.”

“We have strengthened our late prime slot with male skewed programming starting 11 pm. We believe that the day prime/early prime bands are equally important, there is a definite audience in these bands and our endeavour is to bring in quality programming to build these slots. For example we have a line-up of the best of comedy shows during weekday evenings,” adds Kamath.

When asked as to whether Star World took any preventive measure to ensure that it did not suffer a similar fate like AXN, he maintains that Star World has a social responsibility and has stringent internal censorship guidelines prior to broadcast.

In terms of local initiatives, Star World has the property Koffee With Karan. The channel is exploring other local concepts.
Kamath says that on the advertising front, clients belonging to different categories like telecom, computers, mobile phones, electronics, financial, automobile, net portals are with it.

“English entertainment is evolving in India and more new audiences are tuning in to the genre. Clients find English entertainment a very important differentiator in the content arena and a strong association for their brands with evolved audiences. We have new launches every month and give a variety of programming mix to our viewers and advertisers that give a light viewing environment,” avers Kamath.

At the same time, he concedes that it is really challenging to retain clients amidst a bouquet of channels in the English genre per se at the time of evaluating a media plan.

Star World offers customised packages to advertisers in partnership with their media agencies based on their brand brief. Packages consist of the shows that are associated with advertisers for sponsorships and a mix of other programmes that have synergies with the brand environment and commercial creatives. All sponsored programmes consist of sponsors commercials to derive strong brand connect with the association. RODP and ROS also form a certain component in the overall package.

From general to more specific entertainment:

As digitisation grows, more players are looking to enter this space. Last year, this genre got a new entrant in BBC Entertainment. As of now though the channel is only available on Tata Sky. The channel brings shows from the UK such as Spooks. The British sensibility is the starting point for this channel in terms of its USP. The programming strategy is such that there are horizontal and vertical strips.

In the evening, it is more family oriented. There are shows like the comedy My Family, My Life In Film so that viewership is widespread across the family. Later on, it gets more specific with shows like Waking the Dead which the channel says is a more realistic version of CSI. Murder mysteries are solved using the latest forensics technology and old-fashioned police methods.

At the same time, English entertainment will move from general to more specific. For instance, later this year, AXN is expected to launch another channel called AXN Beyond. The focus is on science fiction and the supernatural.

US media conglomerate NBC Universal, through its tie-up with NDTV, will launch two channels Sci Fi and Universal. The former specialises in science fiction, fantasy, horror and paranormal programming; the latter has movies and TV series in the thriller, drama, horror, crime and investigation genres.

More specific entertainment could come from E! which might launch in India this year. This channel focuses on Hollywood extensively through news and specials around the industry. The challenge for it is to find a distribution partner.

Viacom has a JV with TV18. If digitisation moves at the expected speed, one could see the likes of the male channel Spike TV entering the country. Comedy Central might also figure in the scheme of things. So expect a lot of activity in this space.

ESS renews deal with Australian Open for 7 years

February 27, 2008

It is game, set and match as pan-Asian sports broadcaster ESPN Star Sports (ESS) announced a new seven-year contract for the Australian Open till 2014.The deal covers cable and satellite, IPTV, DTH and terrestrial rights. ESS and Tennis Australia have also agreed to a collaboration for new media platforms such as mobile telephony and internet.


The new contract gives ESS rights for the entire territory including China for 2008. From 2009, the rights will cover 23 countries across South Asia, South East Asia and North Asia with the exception of China. ESS has been airing the Australian Open to tennis fans across Asia since 2002.

ESS says that it will continue to support the Australian Open match coverage with presentation packages including daily highlights, news and analyses as well as behind-the-scene looks at the tournament.

ESS Asia MD Manu Sawhney says, “The Australian Open has always occupied a special place in Asian sports fans’ hearts with its legacy as one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world of tennis. We have built a very successful partnership with Tennis Australia over the last six years and we are extremely pleased to now extend our relationship for another seven years.

“With the strong equity that our brands enjoy across Asia and the strength of our new media platforms including mobile and online, we are committed to further strengthening the appeal and distribution of Australian Open across Asia and to continue its growth as the Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific.”

Tennis Australia CEO Steve Wood said that the new deal marked a new chapter in a very strong relationship with ESS. “ESPN Star Sports has been a highly valued partner to Tennis Australia and the Australian Open. As the leader in Asian sports television, ESPN Star Sports is the perfect fit for the Grand Slam of Asia Pacific.

“We appreciate, in particular, how well ESS has continued to promote the event and contributed to raising the popularity of the Australian Open across Asia. We look forward to continuing that growth with ESS support.”

Last month, ESS concluded the broadcast of The Australian Open 2008, with its coverage on various networks across Asia featuring the legendary tennis player Vijay Amritraj as expert commentator and the popular anchor Alan Wilkins presenting the highly-watched programming lineup.

ESS also has the rights for Wimbledon throughout Asia, the French Open in South Asia, the ATP Masters Series, which comprises 10 tennis tournaments and the Hyundai Hopman Cup, which is the only ITF official international mixed teams competition.

ESS adds that its coverage goes beyond its stable of tennis tournament telecast and includes its original in-house production Ace which features the latest results and updates in the world of tennis, as well as exclusive interviews with top tennis players.

It will also begin to air shows such as Destination Tennis which features best places for tennis vacations on and off the court. No Strings offers a behind-the-scenes, close-up and personal look at some of the world’s biggest tennis stars. Tactical Tennis is an instructional series for tennis fans to take their game to the next level.


UTV Movies acquires 250 titles; earmarks Rs 300 mn for channel promotion

February 27, 2008

UTV Movies, the Hindi movie channel from UTV Global Broadcasting which started beaming on 24 February, has acquired 250 titles and will be investing Rs 300 million for the launch campaign.Earlier UTV Software Communications CEO Ronnie Screwvala had told that the peak funding requirement for the Hindi movie channel would be Rs 2.5 billion.

UTV is betting on contemporary titles. “90 per cent of the films in our library are less than 5 years old,” said UTV Global Broadcasting Ltd executive director Shantonu Aditya.

Some of the titles the channel has acquired include Halla Bol and Aap Ka Suroor.

In addition, the channel will also leverage the in-house films produced by UTV Motion Pictures. Goal, Hattrick and Life in a Metro are some of the movies released by UTV Motion Pictures last year.


“We believe in the studio model which works well in Hollywood. With UTV Movies, we are introducing the same in India,” said Aditya.

When asked about the feasibility of launching another Hindi movie channel in a market where acquisition of movie prices has witnessed a considerable raise, Aditya said, “We have UTV Motion Pictures to provide us with latest titles and we will promote it aptly. Apart from that, the syndication model is taking good shape whch is there to stay. Zee has syndicated few titles to us which we will screen shortly. A movie channel is driven by titles, not audience loyalty.”

On weekdays, the channel has created a 2-pm slot for women. This will be followed by an evening slot called Cutting Chai at 5 pm. The 8:30 pm slot is called Paisa Vasool which will show latest films.

“Existing movie channels as well as GECs show big titles on weekends but we are taking a different route,” said Aditya.

To spice up the weekends, the channel will show English films dubbed in Hindi during prime time at 8:30 pm in the slot called Foreign Returned.

The other offerings from the channel include Bachcha Party slot on Sunday morning at 8 am for children. Titles like Hidden Fortress, Flying Snicker and Tony Tricker will be dubbed in Hindi and shown.

With regard to marketing campaigns, the channel has set aside Rs 300 millions for the launch promos which will span across all the Hindi speaking Tam markets.

“We first believe in getting our distribution in place and then in promoting the channel,” explained Aditya.

In order to to establish direct connect with the viewers, the campaign will be rolled out across various platforms including outdoor, radio cross-channel promos and the internet.

Airtel has been roped in as one of the advertisers on the channel.

NDTV to expand documentary slot from mid-March

February 24, 2008
NDTV 24X7, which had commenced a weekly half-hour slot for short films after it entered into a partnership with the Prasar Bharati-supported Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) last month, has now decided to increase the telecast of documentaries from mid-March.

NDTV Producer Gunjan Jain – who recently attended the Mumbai International Film Festival for documentary, short and animation films to scout for good films – told that the half-hour and one hour slots may be alternated depending on the length of the films received by the channel for telecast.

She also clarified that though the initial agreement had been with PSBT, the channel was also prepared to telecast documentaries by other producers. She had seen some good films in Mumbai and submitted her report to the channel

According to a PSBT spokesperson, the partnership provides an ideal platform for the exploration of myriad issues that these documentaries deal with, and for enhancing the viewership of powerful and insightful content. The effort will go a long way in creating and encouraging a public culture of documentary appreciation and engagement.

Renowned filmmaker and PSBT Chairperson Adoor Gopalakrishnan said, “We welcome exposure for the excellent films produced by PSBT on a private commercial channel. With the terrible decline in the standards of commercial television, this is a very praiseworthy effort by NDTV. Our films are produced by independent filmmakers, most of them young, partially funded by Doordarshan. The future for public broadcasting lies in efforts such as these that demonstrate the potential of public-private partnerships.”

PSBT is a non-profit trust that represents the confluence of energies to foster a shared public culture of broadcasting that is exciting and cutting edge. PSBT’s pioneering work revolves around the creation of independent films that are socially responsive and representative of democratic values. It seeks to situate a new vocabulary and activism at the very heart of broadcasting in India and this endeavour will open up new spaces for engagement with the form and content of documentary films in the mainstream public media.


DD Direct to add channels, woo subscribers

February 24, 2008

MUMBAI: Though it has seen some growth in strength with the entry of channels like B4U Music, 9X Music,

Deutsche Welle, and some channels from southern India, the country’s only free-to-air (FTA) direct-to-home service DD Direct Plus is having to reinvent itself to beat the competition.
This appears to be the main reason for the lowering of the carriage fee for all private FTA channels from Rs 10 million to Rs 2.5 million along with a service tax of Rs 300,000. However, foreign broadcasters have to pay a carriage fee of Rs 5 million.

The imposition of the carriage fee of Rs 10 million had resulted in almost all news and many general entertainment channels quitting the platform. At present, the only private Indian news channel on the platform is Total TV.

Incidentally, leading Hindi news channel Aaj Tak has recently turned pay.

The first DTH platform to be launched in the country, DD Direct had initially been launched by offering free carriage to different FTA channels. As a result, almost all the news channels had come on the platform.

However, Doordarshan sources told that new steps were being taken to get back the channels and also invite newer FTA channels to join the platform. The reduction of the fee in mid-2007 had only been the first step, they added.

DD Direct is now beaming 42 television channels and 21 radio channels. The television channels include 22 private channels, while all the radio channels are those of All India Radio.

Sources said that Korean Broadcasting corporation (Korean TV) was also joining the platform shortly and negotiations were at an advanced stage with Bengali channel Tara Bangla.

Being the FTA DTH Service Provider, DD Direct only has a one-time charge for dish antennae, set top box and installation ranging between Rs 4,000 to Rs 8,000 depending on the brand chosen by the consumer.

DD Direct is in competition with private DTH sevice providers like Dish TV, Tata Sky and Sun Direct.

Telecom regulator makes recomendations for FM radio

February 24, 2008

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said on Friday it has recommended raising foreign investment limit in FM radio stations, allow news broadcast and multiple channel ownership in same areas to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. TRAI recommended future bidding for radio channels to be changed to a district-basis instead of city, extending coverage and enabling more operators. Existing players should be given the option to enlarge their area, it added.

“There is a basis for a force multiplier of the industry if these recommendations get accepted by the Ministry,” A.P. Parigi Chairman of FICCI Radio Forum.

“The government is moving towards a market economy,” Parigi, who is also managing director of radio broadcaster Entertainment Network (India) Ltd, said.

The foreign holding, including institutional investment for FM radio, may rise to 26 percent for news broadcasting and 49 percent for non-news broadcasting. Foreign holding now stands at 20 percent for both.

Other radio operators in India include HT Media Ltd, Sun TV Network Ltd and Adlabs Films Ltd.

Broadcasters may also be permitted to broadcast news taking content from the government’s radio service and television services, authorised television news channels and news agencies, it said.

It also recommended that after at least three radio channels, apart from state-run AIR’s, are running in any district by three different entities, an operator can bid for more channels as long as it does not own more than half the total channels in the area.

Entertainment Network India’s stock ended up 6 percent to 478.85 rupees and Mid-Day Multimedia Ltd closed up 4.7 percent higher to 39.9 rupees after TRAI came out with its recommendations.

Amrita TV to air finale of Super Dancer Junior live

February 22, 2008

Amrita TV is all set to telecast live the grand finale of kids dance talent hunt show Pepsodent Super Dancer Junior on 24 February from 6.30 pm onwards. The selection of the winner will be based on SMS voting by viewers across the world.The finale will be held in front of 2000-invited audiences in Trivandrum and is expected to last for nearly three hours.


Besides having competition performances from the four finalists (Anna, Nayana, Sheha, and Shradha), the finale will see entertaining programme consisting of cinematic dance by actor Roma, choreographed dances directed by Kala Master comprising contestants of Super Dancer and Super Dancer Junior, and specialised troupes presenting tribal dance, martial art weapon dance and classical dance.

The winner will be awarded with a prize worth Rs 500,000 while the runner-up bags a prize of Rs 300,000.

Amrita TV has announced that the entire income from SMS will be donated to the well-being of underprivileged children under its ongoing public service campaign, ‘Send an SMS. Save a Child’. This initiative was launched in November 2007, wherein Amrita TV pledged the SMS revenue from all its reality shows for needy children

Pepsodent is the brand sponsor and Amway the presenting sponsor of Super Dancer Junior

Super Dancer Junior claims to be the only reality show on a GEC to be telecast seven days a week. It commenced in September 2007 and has completed 160 episodes on prime time.