Archive for July, 2009

Arasu Cable Corporation ceases to exist in Tamil Nadu

July 26, 2009

The hope with which cable TV operators joined the Tamil Nadu government promoted Arasu Cable Corporation (ACC), promising a cheaper alternative to subscribers, at the height of the feud within the state’s first family is fast receding.

Now that the 2007 conflict between Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi’s family and his grand-nephews, the Maran brothers, has ended, cable operators, who joined the state-run entity feel they have been left in the lurch.

Industry sources say they are battling political pressure to quit ACC and join one of the larger Multi System Operators (MSO) functioning across the state. Some cable operators in Tirunelveli and Vellore complained that they had to leave ACC owing to political pressure.

ACC is now on the verge of collapse, with just one or two operators in Tirunelveli, Vellore and Thanjavur still on its network, while many quitting the cable corporation in Coimbatore from around March this year in the wake of a police complaint by ACC against the Maran-run private operator, Sumangali Cable Vision (SCV) for allegedly cutting ACC cables.

A senior SCV official declined to comment on this story and asked WE to contact Kalanidhi Maran. Maran could not be reached on telephone. An email sent to his office remained unanswered.

“They (ACC) have virtually shut down operations in Vellore and Tirunelveli. All the infrastructure created by the government will end up as liabilities.” says, Shakilan, president, Tamil Nadu Cable TV Operators’ Welfare Association.

“In Thanjavur, about 200 operators are still trying to stick on to ACC but in Coimbatore, almost all cable operators have gone back to private networks. All operators want the CM to fulfill promises made to them last year and protection provided to them.” Shakilan adds.

“We still believe in the concept of ACC. Cable operators are virtually on the brink of collapse. ACC would help us survive. They have extremely good digital quality pictures and a well established network,” an cable TV operator said.

“We fear for our future in the cable business, if ACC cable does not take the steps it promised. We even asked for the equipment to be given on lease to us. But the government is not willing to do even that,” another operator in Vellore said.

Senior government officials, when contacted, indicated that some announcement was in the offing, but declined to talk about ACC’s plans. ACC was in fact expected to begin operations in Chennai in September 2008 itself, but there is no sign of the rollout happening.

Even the policy note tabled in the Assembly on Monday has no mention of the ACC’s plans for Chennai. “Arasu Cable Corporation has set up digital head-ends at Thanjavur, Tirunelveli, Coimbatore and Vellore utilising state-of-the-art equipment. Arasu is carrying out works in the districts to facilitate distribution of the signals,” the policy note said.

We has recently reported that Hathway Datacom, the Rajan Raheja-owned multi system operator, has discontinued its cable TV services in Chennai. TheO, which had a 10 per cent share of the city’s cable TV market, stated that SCV, had left theO with no choice but to close operations.

DTH operators, film producers bet big on pay-per-view

July 26, 2009

Direct-to-home (DTH) service providers and film producers see pay-per-view (PPV) buying of movies emerging as a significant contributor to revenues, with the growing popularity and expanding subscriber base of satellite television.

Television viewers have received an fantastic option of PPV, which allows them to view movies or individual programmes for a nominal fee. Movies are seen as especially well-suited for the pay-TV model, allowing subscribers the option of viewing in the privacy and comfort of home at a time of their choice.

The major providers of PPV include the Essel Group-owned Dish TV, Tata Sky, a joint venture between the Tata group and Star TV, Reliance Communications’ Big TV and Bharti Airtel’s digital TV. Sun Direct still needs to capture this potential market.

DTH operators update the menu of movies on offer every fortnight and subscribers pay between Rs 25 and Rs 75, depending on whether it is a monthly rental or an a la carte offering. PPV rights for movies are sold for a fixed duration and on a non-exclusive basis, depending on the star cast, time of release and box-office ratings.

DTH firms have been experimenting with the PPV model for some time now. Earlier this year, Tata Sky offered its customers an option of viewing Slumdog Millionaire for Rs 25 a pop. The offer lasted for three days before the Academy Awards and some 1,50,000 viewers took it up.

UTV Motion Pictures will release its Phir Kabhi movie, which has been produced at a cost of Rs 3 crore, on all the platforms including Dish TV, Tata Sky, Big TV and digital TV. UTV and operators see the film as an experiment in the right direction for both producers of small-budget films and the platform itself.

“Generally, we buy satellite rights in a bundle, including conventional, DTH and Internet protocol TV. PPV rights are initially sold to DTH operators to give them the advantage of airing it in advance.” says Amrita Pandey, vice-president, international distribution and syndication, UTV Motion Pictures.

Airtel digital TV will premiere Hannah Montana: The Movie, ahead of its theatrical release in India. The movie, available from July 22 for PPV subscribers, is priced at Rs 75.

DTH operators are optimistic about such a trend catching on and are hoping pay-per-view emerges as a separate revenue stream. Currently, the PPV business contributes an insignificant amount to their revenues.

Rajesh Jain, research head, information, communications and entertainment, KPMG, an consulting and audit firm, says, “PPV is a step forward to increase stickiness for DTH services. Operators are still testing the waters in terms of viewer demand, just as producers are evaluating the market dynamics.”

A report by KPMG and industry lobby Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) predicts that the number of DTH subscribers in India is at 13 million and estimates that the subscriber base will grow to 25-27 million by 2012.

Star Plus’ ‘Moment of Truth’ arrives to take on Colors

July 26, 2009

Take Colors head on. That seems to be Star Plus’ programming plan after ‘The Moment of Truth’ (Sach Ka Saamna) has arrived.

Showing signs of aggression, after being put on the defensive for some time, Star Plus is getting back the Kiran Bedi-hosted Aap Ki Kachehri to fight against Colors’ top-rated show Balika Vadhu. The television reality-justice show, which had a successful first run, is returning from 5 August at the 8 pm slot as its original position is taken away by the polygraph-tested reality show
Sach Ka Saamna.

“Star Plus is getting on the offensive as they will have two daily prime time reality shows. This could change the game. And we were not expecting Aap Ki Kachehri to occupy the 8 pm slot,” says the programming head of a leading Hindi general entertainment chann

Moving Aap Ki Kachehri into a new time zone could test the strength of the show. When it was launched at the 10.30 pm slot, it had a male skew viewership. “The 8 pm slot in Hindi GECs is female dominated. The contest with Balika Vadhu will also be interesting as both are non-conventional in approach,” says a media analyst.

Aap Ki Kachehri drew in more audiences from the northern region and in smaller towns, similar to the viewing base of Balika Vadhu. “We expect Aap Ki Kacheri to expand the market. It could also take away some audiences from Balika Vadhu. We expect it to do a bit of both,” says Star India EVP marketing and communications Anupam Vasudev.

Vasudev also expects Aap Ki Kachehri to garner audiences from the non-GEC channels. “There is a significant male viewing population in the non-GEC channels at 8 pm. The show tends to draw in viewership from these channels,” he says.

Star Plus’ relatively weaker show, Kis Desh Mein Hai Meraa Dil, at 8.30 pm is being refreshed with Sajan Ghar Jaana Hai. The channel hopes the new show would have a lead-in advantage from Aap Ki Kachehri.

“Star Plus is creating an 8-9 pm band. And it is the right time to be aggressive and get in Aap Ki Kachehri as Zee TV’s new shows are also picking up. If they would have waited for Sach Ka Saamna to complete its run before getting in Aap Ki Kachehri, it would, perhaps, have been a bit late. This is the right time to strike when Sach Ka Saamna is creating a ripple,” says a media observer.

Star Plus is also strategically pushing the two prime time shows Kis Desh Mein Hain Mera Dil and Raja Ki Aayegi Baarat to the afternoon band. “They have enough steam left in them to do well in the afternoon band,” says Vasudev.

Star Plus, Colors and Zee TV are in fierce battle to stay as No. 1 in the Hindi GEC space.

First on TvToday >> S FM gana be Red Fm

July 26, 2009

There have been strong speculations about SFM set to be rebranded as Red FM. We has not received any official confirmation in this regard from either Red FM or SFM despite repeated attempts.

SFM, a part of Sun TV’s subsidiary, South Asia FM, has around 45 FM stations across the country with a very strong presence in South India. Red FM, on the other hand, is present in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.

It may be recalled that Sun TV Network had taken a 48.9 per cent stake in Red FM way back in 2007, which is said to have provided a common advertising sales platform for the two FM players. ValueLabs, a Hyderabad-based IT company, NDTV and Astro Group hold minority stakes in Red FM. The strategic alliance with Red FM was also aimed to further its FM radio business.

Since SFM is seen as a stronger brand in the South, will rebranding to Red FM make sense from the Southern viewpoint? spoke to a few media planners to find out more.

According to Sandeep Lakhina, COO (South Asia), Starcom Worldwide, “Since SFM is a very strong brand in the South, so definitely a rebranding to Red FM will have a positive impact and add value to the synergy. While radio is usually a local medium for clients, however, having a national reach particularly where it has a strong presence certainly helps, therefore, unifying of the brands may have an adverse effect.”

Sanjay Sharma, Director, Synergy, observed, “Red FM is known in the metros – Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata – and having an extra 45 stations reach, especially in SFM strongholds mainly in the South, makes absolute sense for rebranding to Red FM.”

Kunal Jamuar, GM, Madison Media, noted, “I don’t see rebranding to Red FM making a huge impact as there is no station loyalty, but song loyalty, among the listeners. However, if there is a change in the content, then we can expect a strong possibility, especially in terms of attracting new listeners, but even from advertising point of view, I don’t see much of an impact, since the two have been in partnership for a long time now.”

If true, then possibly it would be a first-of-its-kind, wherein an FM station has a complete transition into another brand name. This could well become one of the biggest consolidations in the FM space so far, and that too before the Phase III rollout. Media planners have already given the thumbs up to the rebranding as they see it having a positive impact, particularly from the client’s perspective, keeping in mind the wider reach the FM station will now possess.

Zeel to transfer shares abroad to promoters for non-news channel

July 19, 2009

Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. has been allowed by the Finance Ministry to transfer fully paid equity shares to an overseas entity belonging to the promoters Group for uplinking a non-news and current Affairs TV channel.

However, a Finance Ministry release said this does not involve any fresh inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI).

UTV Software Communications Ltd. has been permitted to increase its share holding from 75 per cent to 85 per cent by purchase of equity shares and to amend the FC approval letter.

This will not involve any fresh FDI inflow.
Following the recommendations of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) in its meeting held on 10 July, the Government has permitted Interpublic Mauritius Ltd, Mauritius, to make investment of 50 per cent equity by way of subscribing to equity shares, involving foreign investment of Rs 7.5 million.

The Ministry deferred a proposal by Dish TV India Ltd. to issue convertible bonds, convertible into equity shares at a ‘conversion price’ as specified in an offering circular in relation thereto and on terms and conditions mentioned thereunder, to such persons resident outside India, as may be permissible under the applicable laws.

DD, AIR to get Rs 1 bn to boost transmitters in border areas

July 19, 2009

The range and capacity of Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR) transmitters in border areas is being augmented, following persistent complaints that stronger signals from across the border result in jamming Indian channels.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry is understood to have set aside a budget of around Rs 1 billion for this purpose.

When pointed out that this was not a new complaint, Ministry sources told that Prasar Bharati was an autonomous body and the government could interfere only up to a certain extent.

“In fact, senior officials in Prasar Bharati have themselves not got used to the fact that they work for an autonomous organisation,” the source quipped.

The sources also regretted that one reason for the weak signals was the fact that cable and direct-to-home operators often did not carry Doordarshan channels on the prime band as required under law under Section 8 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995.

Sun Pictures shines with smash Tamil hits

July 19, 2009

Sun Pictures, the film production arm of Sun TV Network, has some reason to cheer. Having forayed into film production, acquisition and distribution less than a year ago, six out of the seven Tamil films acquired and released by the leading media company have turned out to be hits, including two that have been declared as smash hits.

Venturing into films Kaadhalil through Vizhundhein, Sun Pictures has since acquired and distributed Thenaavattu, Dindugal Sarathy, Padikkaadhavan, Thee, Ayan and Maasilamani. Except Thee, where the distributors lost about15 per cent of their investments or the print and publicity costs, every other film has given handsome returns to the distributors.

Among the hits, Ayan and Kaadhalil Vizhundhein have been declared as smash hits. While Ayan, acquired at a cost of Rs 18 crore, is expected to gross about Rs 50 crore and fetch a distributors’ share of over Rs 25 crore from all territories, Kaadhalil Vizhundhein, acquired for Rs 3.5 crore, collected a distributors’ share of Rs 8.5-9.2 crore.

“Sun Pictures looks for basic entertainment value in the films that they acquire With an eye on attracting the family audience, they shun films with excessive violence or sex. That’s the secret of the success of their portfolio of films,” says K S Mahalingam, head, distribution, AGS Entertainment, that distributes Sun Pictures’ films in Tamil Nadu.

While three films were small budget ones, Padikaadhavan and Ayan were big budget ones, where the acquisition costs ranged between Rs 14-18 crore. Now, it has again turned its attention on small budget films starting with Maasilamani.

“Once Sun acquires a film from the original producer, it palms it off territory-wise to a set of distributors at a marginal profit. As a result, there is no big increase in cost as the film changes hands. Where it actually gains is the satellite rights of the film, which it gets at almost nil cost.” says a veteran distributor, who did not wish to be named.

Later, it then turns its attention to aggressive marketing and the network, being an established media empire, comes handy in taking this across all segments of the media – television, radio and print.

“They are smart marketing people and the fact that they have a successful media empire gives them complete control over the campaign. Hence, their success rate is not surprising, only a failure will be surprising,” says G Dhananjayan, chief operating officer, entertainment business, Moser Baer Entertainment.

BBC Worldwide, Mixer announce production partnership

July 19, 2009

BBC Worldwide’s division BBC Worldwide Content and Production has announced an exclusive production partnership with Brazilian production company, Mixer.

This relationship will see the two companies join forces to develop and produce formats in Brazil from BBC Worldwide’s vast catalogue, for local Brazilian audiences.

Says BBC Worldwide director, international format production, Colin Jarvis, “With the breadth and depth of titles at our disposal, we’re optimistic this relationship will offer network partners a wealth of exciting options for their viewers.”

Adds Mixer CEO João Daniel Tikhomiroff, “The relationship is one of the efforts by Mixer to expand its role both in free TV productions and in global market operations. Associating our brand with BBC Worldwide is a sign of our business solidity and the power of the Brazilian market”.

BBC Worldwide Content and Production licenses its formats all over the world and operates local production partnerships in India, Australia, France, Russia, Canada, Argentina, US and now Brazil. Format hits from BBC Worldwide include Dancing with the Stars, Top Gear and The Office.

Amrita TV to kick off Super Star 2 on 20 July

July 19, 2009

Amrita TV is set to launch the second season of its flagship singing reality show, Super Star, starting 20 July.

Noted playback singer and composer Hariharan will flag off the show that will be aired every Monday-Friday from 7.30–8.30 pm.

The channel claims of receiving huge response at the three Super Star audition centres of Trivandrum, Calicut and Cochin.

Amrita TV had arranged the ‘Super Star Express’, a mobile audition coach that visited select colleges across Kerala for conducting spot auditions.

The show will have 20 participants between 16 to 29 years fighting for the ‘Super Star’ status.

Hathway Datacom discontinues its services in Chennai

July 19, 2009

Hathway Datacom, the Rajan Raheja-owned multi system operator (MSO), has discontinued its cable TV services in Chennai. Employees who were working at Hathway’s Chennai office have confirmed the development.

The MSO, which had a 10 per cent share of the city’s cable TV market, stated that Sumangali Cable Vision (SCV), a division of Sumangali Publications Ltd, which owns a major chunk of the Sun TV network, had left the MSO with no choice but to close operations.

SCV is an MSO offering services on the conditional access system (CAS) in Chennai and Hathway was its only rival. There are around 4-5 lakh subscribers in the city, with more than 1,000 cable operators, according to industry representatives.

P. S. Lakshmanan, who looks after Hathway’s Chennai operations, declined to comment on the development, when queried by us. Hathway officials in Mumbai were also unavailable for comments despite repeated attempts were made to contact them.

Last year, In Chennai, Hathway had issued about 50,000 free set-top boxes (STBs) worth about Rs 50 crore. A spokesperson of Cable TV Urimayalaargal Sangam, an association of the cable operators, said that the company failed due to mismanagement and aggressive investment in STBs and promotional offers of free boxes.

With Hathway stopping operations in Chennai, SCV is expected to have a monopoly. SCV, a network owned by Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran and his brother Kalanidhi Maran of the Sun TV group, has a market share of 90 per cent in the city.

In Tamil Nadu, the DMK Government had also started an MSO called Arasu Cable Network, which everyone thought would take over the entire cable TV industry, including SCV and Hathway. But, after a patch-up between the Maran’s and Karunanidhi’s families, the takeover plan was not initiated and Hathway began to face resistance from SCV.