Star makes India TV buy

Rupert Murdoch’s Star Television Ltd. confirmed last week that it has agreed to buy 49.9% of Asia Today Ltd., the broadcaster of India’s Zee TV.

Star TV, a Hong Kong multichannel satellite broadcaster controlled by News Corp., didn’t provide terms of the purchase. The move is in line with recent statements by Star TV execs that the company would concentrate on diversifying and upgrading its program services in India and in China.

Announcing the purchase, Sam Chisholm, a News Corp. top exec and the overseer of Star’s expansion plans, said in a statement: “Zee TV is a tremendous addition to Star Television. It is the fastest-growing Hindi channel in Asia. It broke new ground by being the first independent broadcaster in India, and its popularity is remarkable.

Broader choices

“The purchase demonstrates our intention to broaden the choice for viewers in Asia, and with the existing Chinese channel, two of Star’s six channels will now be broadcast in Asian languages,” he added. (In addition to Zee TV, Star’s channels include the Star Plus movie channel, Prime Sports, a Chinese entertainment channel, Music Television, and the BBC World Service Television. Star’s footprint now covers some 53 countries.)

Star TV said the investment in the Hindi-language Zee TV, with a current viewership of over seven million homes, will boost its share of primetime viewing in Indian homes with cable to over 50%. The Hong Kong satellite broadcaster said Zee TV also has significant viewership in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Zee TV, which now broadcasts nearly 90 hours a week over the AsiaSat satellite, plans to boost its output to 24 hours a day.

Subhash Chandra, a top exec at Zee TV, said in a statement that Zee TV would continue to provide a mix of general entertainment and films broadcast predominantly in Hindi.

The transaction won’t affect the management of Zee TV or its agreements with Zee Telefims Ltd., a publicly quoted Bombay producer of Hindi-language broadcasting.

Under the terms of the sale to Star, Zee TV’s programming and advertising sales activities will continue to be operated by the current management team in Bombay.

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