New Delhi, Feb. 13: Prannoy Roy’s New Delhi Television today signed up with The One Alliance, a Sony Entertainment Television-Discovery Networks joint venture, to distribute its two news channels in English and Hindi.
For the cable television viewer, this means NDTV’s channels will be available to the operator along with seven other channels that are marketed in one bunch by the distribution company, Set Discovery Private Limited. The NDTV channels will be made available at current rates but the distributors retain the option of raising subscription fees later.
The other channels onboard Set Discovery’s brand — “The One Alliance” — are Sony, Max, Discovery, HBO, AXN, Animal Planet and CNBC. It is likely that CNBC, the business news channel, may opt out of the arrangement but that has not yet been announced.
“We were being wooed by several others but we chose Sony because we believe they were a perfect fit for us — they do not have a news channel. With this, we hope to have a reach for our news channels that will be as large as that for entertainment channels,” Roy said, announcing the tie-up.
The One Alliance is the distribution brand of Set Discovery Private Limited, run by Sony Entertainment Television and Discovery Communications India. Deepak Shourie of Discovery claimed the channels have a steady reach of 26 million connections and, with World Cup cricket telecasts, it reaches 36 million. There is no reliable survey of the number of cable and satellite viewers in the country but industry sources estimate it to be 40 million.
NDTV’s alliance with STAR terminates on March 31. NDTV will immediately launch its channels in English and Hindi. Roy refused to give out the names of the channels. STAR is grooming its own set-up for its news channel.
“By taking NDTV onboard, we are filling in the missing link in our bouquet,” Sony’s chief executive officer Kunal Dasgupta said. “Our stated objective for The One Alliance is that we will have a small but powerful mix. We have already built up an expectation that Prannoy Roy is going to be free of shackles; so better watch out.”
Dasgupta said Sony Entertainment Television was “expecting a gross revenue of Rs 1,000 crore in the year ending March 2003. This is more than double last year’s.” He attributed the growth in revenues to the two cricket tournaments in the year —the Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka and the World Cup.
The One Alliance, STAR and Zee-Turner make up the three major “channel bouquets” on cable television, accounting for 34 channels. The One Alliance will possibly add a children’s channel and a music channel. It is likely that these will be Nickelodeon and MTV. STAR is also understood to be looking to add a children’s channel to its bouquet. CNBC India is likely to move to the Zee-Turner bouquet, but Dasgupta said: “We have not yet received a notice from CNBC.”
Shantonu Aditya, managing director of SET-Discovery, said the company had begun sending equipment to operators who will unscramble the signals and distribute among viewers.
There are several channels that market themselves independently of distribution companies. The largest among these is said to be Aaj Tak, the Hindi news channel from the India Today group. Before NDTV joined The One Alliance, Set-Discovery was scouting for a news channel and had also sounded out Aaj Tak.
The three major “bouquets” along with their channels are:
I) The Star Bouquet: Star Plus, Star Movies, Star Gold, Star World, Star News, Vijay, Adventure One, National Geographic and Channel (V)
II) The Zee-Turner bouquet: Zee TV, Zee News, Zee Cinema, Zee English, Zee MGM, Zee Music, CNN, Cartoon Network, Zed TV, Reality TV, Nickelodeon, Alpha Bangla, Alpha Gujarati, Alpha Marathi, Alpha Punjabi
III) The One Alliance : Sony Entertainment Television, SET MAX, AXN, NDTV English, NDTV Hindi, HBO, CNBC India, Discovery, Animal Planet.