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Print, TV media to see raft of new launches

December 11, 2003 10:16 IST

Action in the print and television media industry is heating up with several new dailies and satellite channels being planned for the Indian market.

The Chennai-based media group Sun Network will launch a English newspaper by mid-April 2004.

Sources close to the deal said that the yet-to be named paper will have four editions in the south -- in Tamil Nadu, Kerala Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Parabanking and airlines group Sahara is gearing up to launch the Mumbai edition of its weekly English paper Sahara Times.

But Sushanto Roy, CEO of Sahara's media business, says, "Contrary to popular perception, we are not launching a daily paper."

The Hinduja Group, with interests in cable television distribution, is also said to be toying with the idea of launching a newspaper, first in English and later in vernacular languages.

A senior executive of the group says that the company may be willing to wait for as long as eight years for the project to break even.

The Hindujas had in the 1980s unsuccessfully sought to bring The International Herald Tribune to India.

Expect a burst of activity in the television broadcasting industry too. CNBC-TV18 is contemplating a separate business news channels in Hindi.

"We are evaluating the project seriously but we are not in a position to make a formal announcement yet," said the company's chief executive officer Haresh Chawla.

But he says the channel has already increased its Hindi language programming on its existing channel during the day.

"We feel that with the rise in education, aspirational and income levels of people, a Hindi business news channel could be the window to understanding the commercial world," he said.

Besides, he added, even premium, high-ticket items are advertised in Hindi today, reflecting the changing profile of the consumer.

Small wonder then that CNBC-TV18 launched 16 news updates recently, 8 of which are in Hindi. In the last four months, 120 brands advertised on the channel which is a clear 25 per cent increase from the average number of advertisers using the channel earlier.

According to company officials, the channel's inventory utilisation in the stock markets coverage during the day has gone up 300 per cent in the last three months.

Media industry sources say that encouraged by CNBC's improved advertising during stock markets coverage, NDTV 24X7 is also planning to focus on stock market trading and business news during the trading hours.

But LS Nayak, CEO of NDTV Media, said there was "no plan to tinker with the English channel's programming immediately since we are already India's number one English channel."

Meanwhile, back in south Sun Network is ready to convert its Telugu offering Teja into a full-fledged news channel.

However, in this segment, Sun will compete with Eenadu TV and TV9 (promoted by Srini Raju of i-Labs) both of which are launching 24-hour news channels.

According to advertising industry experts, the rush to launch new products in print and television media is understandable.

Says Gopinath Menon, vice president at the advertising agency TBWA-Anthem, "The economy is looking up, sales have improved, and we expect the advertising industry to grow in double digits."

The advertising industry's revenues currently is pegged at Rs 8,500 crore (Rs 85 billion), and the figure is slated to touch Rs 9,500 crore (Rs 95 billion) next year.

Satyajit Sen, associate vice president Mediacom (part of Grey advertising) added: "Launching a new media platform when you have existing infrastructure is quite economical."

He added that it makes sense for the media companies to occupy niche slots as the returns from these adds up well to the revenues.

In Chennai, Sun Network is busy preparing for its newspaper foray. It has hired a consultant for planning and setting up a print facility in the city.

Kalyana S Ramanathan in Chennai