Star TV India, MGM talk movie channel

New venture would take on HBO

NEW DELHI — Star TV India is reported to be in discussion with MGM to launch a new MGM Movie channel on the Star TV platform in India.

Rathikant Basu, CEO of Star TV India, told Daily Variety that Star India is close to signing an agreement with MGM for exclusive television rights to MGM’s movies.

“Once MGM’s present contract with Ted Turner’s TNT comes to an end, Star is likely to have full television rights to Metro Goldwyn Mayer’s entire movie library,” he said.

Star Movie Channel already has an arrangement with 20th Century Fox and Polygram, and has very recently signed a five-year contract with Walt Disney Pictures.

According to Basu, “With MGM also likely to come within its fold soon, Star would have access to a wide array of all-time Hollywood favorites.” This is particularly significant for Star, Basu said, because it would help to take on HBO, which has been emerging as a formidable challenge to Star in the Asia-Pacific region.

Basu said Star TV should break even this year and may start making profits starting next year. However, he added that introduction of new channels and/or upgrading of technology could push the break-even date beyond what is currently anticipated.

The Star CEO also said that revenues from cable subscriptions as a proportion of total television revenues would have to rise over the longer run. Advertising currently accounts for 75% to 80% of television revenues, and cable subscriptions the rest.

It would be unreasonable to expect advertising to bear the major cost of increasing the number of TV channels, said Basu, adding that this does not necessarily have to entail higher individual subscription rates.

In his view, cable operators indulge in a great deal of fudging in the number of cable subscribers, and he pointed out that television companies would have to find ways to make cable operators reveal a more accurate picture.

He also said that Star TV is planning to start four regional channels — Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati and Punjabi.

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