Review 2007 / Media Boom/TV

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Network 18 spreads its wings far and wide

One of the names that created ripples in the media industry last year  was the Network18 group. The group has found itself in the headlines for reasons as varied as rebranding, acquisition, launches etc. The year was truly eventful for the network which made no bones about the fact that they want to emerge as full player in the times to come. In a recent conversation with our sister publication Impact, the Network Group managing director and promoter  Raghav Bahl made the group’s ambitions very clear.

The diversified media company has taken a non-organic growth path by acquiring stakes in  various companies including Infomedia, BigTree Entertainment. The group has been able to evolve at a very fast pace, but what attracted more attention was its spreading of wings across almost all media platforms, a step towards emerging as a complete media company in the near future.

Last year saw the group getting a foothold in the print media through a controlling stake in Infomedia. On the other hand, it also announced the arrival of Studio18 in the movies space with movies like Jab We Met and Welcome.

Making its intention clear on entering the fast growing print media, the group also inked a deal with the Forbes magazine to launch the Indian edition of the internationally reputed Forbes magazine.

Raghav Bahl

Adding to the platforms in the television domain, the network entered into a joint venture  with the global media company Viacom recently. The deal would give the control of the popular channels such as MTV, VH1 and Nickelodeon to the Network18 group.

The group also entered into an agreement with the Jagran Prakashan group to come up with a Hindi     language daily.

That apart, giving a fillip to home shopping, the network entered the space with Homeshop18 in the second half of the year.

The massive rebranding exercise of the group undertaken in September was also an assertion of the synergies that the group has. The new entity was named Network18 replacing the earlier TV18 brand name.

Web18, the division that looks after the online business of the network, has already added some more entities to the staple. As Bahl says, the network is upbeat about the new media coming into its own.

Looking ahead, an English business paper is in the heart of  schemes that the network has on its list. And the confidence comes form the expertise and respect that the group commands in the electronic space. The network also plans to venture into two more areas which are currently viewed as exciting spaces to be in. They are radio and animation and gaming, which saw a lot of movement in the year gone by. Bahl is also clear that in all probability it would take the acquisition route to enter these arenas.

Also on the cards is the launch of a general entertainment space which got more crowded by the entry of some other players in the past year. On the online front, Web 18 looks promising in the new year, with some more launches scheduled. The company expects a good year leveraging on the synergies from its varied arms and believes that the diversified portfolio is definitely a strength.


NDTV goes global

Prannoy Roy

The Prannoy Roy-led New Delhi Television network expanded its footprints by entering into new territories and stepping into different media platforms during the year. With this, the network is eyeing to play a triple role in television, the Internet and mobile now.

The NDTV network broke the tradition by going beyond the frames of a news channel to make a foray into the lifestyle category in September with NDTV Good Times in association with the Vijay Mallya promoted Kingfisher. In the logo of the channel, the Kingfisher branding got a space. The channel is targeting a largely cosmopolitan, socially upbeat audience that lives in style and enjoys every moment of life.

Following the mantra of going local, the network also launched a city-centric channel for the Delhi christened as NDTV MetroNation, thereby making it the first such English channel in the country. In the initial phase, the channel is just for Delhi, but gradually there would be channels for Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai as well. These channels are city-centric in their coverage and they would cover all the aspects ranging from lifestyle to sports, from entertainment to local events. Moreover, if Roy is to be believed, it would be fighting for the city and its people on larger public interest issues.

Taking on the war in the general entertainment segment, NDTV is all set to come out with its first premium general entertainment channel  by the name of NDTV Imagine. The line up for the channel has already been made public. Karan Johar has joined the board of NDTV Imagine and his company, Dharma Productions also holds some equity in the channel.

Johar is slated to work on the conceptual side of the business for the upcoming channel which will formally go on air from January 21, 2008. Johar would also be a brand ambassador for the channel. Johar’s production house would also exclusively produce shows for the new channel. The channel from the house of NDTV falls under the NDTV ventures, a 100 percent subsidiary.

As the fourth largest Indian portal on the Internet, NDTV boosted with its convergence plans for mobiles and news on radio (once regulations allow that) expects its technology division to take off under NDTV New Media. The company is already in a joint venture with Genpact to provide media outsourcing solutions. It has also started selling its software and technological innovations, developed in-house under NDTV Lab. The company looks to clock $500 million revenues in five years, and has thus embarked on what the company calls its ‘big bang’ approach.

On the mobile front, NDTV is expected to come out with a personalized channel for mobile named NDTV Active, in collaboration with July Systems, a provider of mobile solutions for media, entertainment, and sports brands. NDTV Active will offer users a personalised, interactive, and completely customisable multimedia mobile experience. Active platform would form a part of NDTV’s new media initiative NDTV Convergence.

Past year also saw a lot of activities for NDTV’s new media venture, as the website went away from the subscription based viewing to open for all set up. Some new specialised sites catering to separate niches of audience also came up in the year.

Meanwhile, moving beyond the domestic  shores, NDTV went global with Astro Vani, and Astro Bhasha, for the markets of Indonesia and Malaysia. In December, NDTV Arabia was launched to cater to the audience in the Middle East market. The channel network also has plans to take its business channel NDTV Profit both oversees and regional.


INX Media: One more into the clutter

Even as the television scene got more crowded, INX Media was the latest to vie for some air space and place in the drawing rooms. The channel headed by Indrani Mukerjea, wife of former Star India chief executive officer Peter Mukerjea, and credited to be the first one with a woman at the top, came into being in mid-November.

To produce content for the general entertainment channel, INX joined hands with 11 production houses which include names like Balaji Telefilms, Hats Off, and Endemol.
In the first phase of its launch, the group launched a music channel apart form the general entertainment channel. Launch of an English news channels is also on the card. For the English news channel, INX has already taken on board Vir Sanghvi, former editorial director of the Hindustan Times, in the capacity of the editorial director. Though Sanghvi continues to have association with the English daily and would regularly contribute to the paper through his columns, his association with INX Media meant that all his television appearances elsewhere would cease. There were strong speculations on whether Mukesh Ambani or Lalchan Murdoch, the son of media baron Rupert Murdoch, held some share in the channel. However, Indrani Mukherjea cleared the air, saying that the funds for the channels came through venture funds and IM Media held 26 percent stake in the company. The group also has plans to outsource its programming. In the second round of expansion, the network has plans to launch a whole bunch of channels carrying a local flavor. These would broadly be three regional channels, three regional music channels and three city specific news channels.

About the author / 

Neeta Nair

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