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Second wind

Do flanking channels translate into more viewership?

By Anusha Subramanian        Print Edition: August 12, 2007

Even as production house UTV took the plunge into the broadcasting space by announcing the launch of a Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC) called Bindass TV, a clutch of broadcasters, including Sahara One and Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL), is preparing to add a second GEC to their bouquets before the year-end. ZEEL will launch Zee Next targeted primarily at the youth (in the 15-25 age group). Sahara's second GEC will have the entire gamut of original novellas, sitcoms, adventure shows and world cinema-all dubbed in Hindi.

The target audience for Sahara? Women. Says Seemanto Roy, Head (Entertainment Business), Sahara: "In our quest for growth, we have been exploring the world of programming opportunities. The dubbed renditions of Hollywood blockbusters in India have been phenomenally successful. A natural progression of this trend in television is inevitable. We believe that telenovelas with their borderless quality and universal appeal would find ready acceptance among Indian viewers."

To be sure, a second GEC isn't a new phenomenon. In late-2004, STAR TV launched STAR One, ostensibly a flanking channel to STAR Plus. And Sony Entertainment Television (SET) India acquired SAB TV from Sri Adhikari Brothers a few months later, which was repositioned as Sony's second Hindi GEC. "While SAB TV already has some fiction programming on air, the channel is also planning to bring international big format shows dubbed in Hindi," says N.P. Singh, coo, set India.

Media analysts point out that such flanking channels address newer audience segments. They will also help broadcasters cash in on the pay TV market that's opening up. According to a report by SSKI, it is estimated that pay revenues will move up from Rs 1,600 crore in 2006 to Rs 8,300 crore by 2010.

The share of pay in the total pie is expected to move up to 43 per cent by 2010 (from 15 per cent currently), and large bouquets and niche broadcasters (sports, movies, lifestyle) are expected to garner higher revenues from this stream. Says Atul Phadnis, the chief evangelist & CEO of Media E2E, a Media Research firm: "The launch of a second GEC is part and parcel of a large heterogeneous and maturing market.

It makes sense in segmenting the entertainment space." Adds Ajay Vidyasagar, President (Content and New Media), STAR India: "A second GEC makes business sense if one is confident of identifying a unique need and satisfying it well and profitably." The subdued ratings of channels like STAR One and SAB may well indicate that these second GECs haven't been able to either identify or fulfil such needs.

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