The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Channels begin survival race

Mumbai, June 10: Buy a channel, get the rest free.

That seems to be one survival strategy in the post-CAS scenario for Zee TV network, which has added two more free-to-air channels to its bouquet to emerge as a better bargain for the viewer.

The two new channels are Zee Mansi, a channel meant for women and conceptualised like a women’s magazine, and Zee Comedy, a channel devoted to humour. This is to give the audience more channels at a lower cost, said a Zee spokesperson.

“After CAS (conditional access system) is implemented, numbers will matter. We are offering 22 channels at Rs 55. Out of these, only Zee TV and perhaps one or two more will be paid,” he added.

The details will be worked out before June 15, the deadline for television broadcasters to submit their line-up of free-to-air and pay channels to the Centre.

There was a report that STAR, too, might air a new free-to-air channel aimed at the Doordarshan market. But the STAR spokesperson denied the report. He added that the network was not ready to make any comment on the pricing of its channels.

Sony, too, said that it would not like to comment on the pricing of the eight channels in its One Alliance bouquet. All the channels are paid.

The networks are divided on the free-to-air vs paid issue. While Zee is banking on its large number of free chan- nels, the other major broadcasters seem to be in favour of paid ones.

“It is unlikely that the major networks will go for more free-to-air channels,” said an industry insider, “though the situation is very unclear now. But increasing the number of free-to-air channels would not help the broadcasters, as the revenue comes from the paid channels,” he added.

The main worry of the broadcasters in the post-CAS scenario is the thought of diminishing revenue in the months immediately following the system’s implementation.

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