Asians race to bow local channels

News Corp, Viacom, DishTV announce

HONG KONG — Asia’s media companies are engaged in a race to launch new TV channels on all types of platforms.

The nets address the needs of viewers who are growing wealthier and more sophisticated and demand more local content and local channels.

The TV groups are also responding to the rapidly expanding capacity offered by Internet protocol TV, satellite platforms and digital cable.

With fragmentation comes a need to fill space, especially in India, where the pace of expansion is ferocious. Following is a list of channel announcements made in the past two weeks:

  • News Corp.’s Star Chinese Movies 2, the golden oldies partner channel to its established Star Chinese Movies net, launches this month in Hong Kong on the Now TV IPTV platform. It is already available in Singapore (StarHub) and the U.S. (KyLin TV, GekTV and the Dish Network).

  • Colors, the Hindi-language general entertainment channel backed by Viacom 18 Media (the joint venture between Viacom and TV18), will launch on July 21. Lineup is based around eight shows including “Khatron ke khiladi,” the Indian version of “Fear Factor,” produced by Endemol India.

Channel, which is entering a very crowded segment of the market, is also counting on blockbuster movies.

Company signed a 16-film deal with Eros Intl., which gives it last year’s smash “Om shanti om,” among other titles. Colors will also access movies from sister company Studio18/Indian Film Co.

  • NDTV Imagine, the Indian general entertainment channel that bowed in January, has been given carriage on DishTV’s satellite platform. Satellite leader DishTV has 3.4 million subscribers and recently added 9X, the entertainment channel launched in December by the INX group.

  • DishTV, backed by Zee TV, is expanding into South India. But it is reported to be dropping its prices to counter the offensive launched by Sun Direct, an 8-month-old satcaster rival, which claims 1 million subscribers but is only operational in four Southern states.

  • Doordarshan, the state-controlled TV group that has been operating satellite TV services longer than any other company, says it will add nine channels in the next two months. It currently carries 50 TV channels and 21 radio nets.

  • Alliance Group has set Aug 22 as the launch date for Real Estate TV. The net is in soft launch mode and available on some cable systems, including Hathway Cable & Datacom, Incablenet and Amogh. It has appointed MQ to handle its ad sales and is now in talks to obtain carriage on satellite operators including DishTV and Tata Sky.

  • Reliance ADAG has hired Arun Kumar Kapoor as prexy of its Big TV division, which is readying the launch of its satellite platform in the fall. Kapoor was previously CEO of DishTV and before that with telco Hutchison Essar.

Reliance has been close to launching for several months but has not committed to a start date as it considers market factors such as marketing and pricing. Company has also said that a delay until after the summer monsoons will improve reception quality on launch and allow it to have ready a bouquet of its own channels.

Dates for the planned launches by rivals Bharti and Videocon have not been announced, either. If they all go ahead, India could soon have six private-sector satellite platforms and one state-owned one.

  • India’s Sahara One Media and Entertainment group is planning to expand into regional-language TV with the launch of regional or city channels in Bhojpuri, Bengali, Gujarati and Marathi. Group operates Hindi general entertainment web Sahara One, movie net Filmy and Firangi, a channel with content from outside India. No date has been set for the new nets. Further off comes the promise of more high-definition channels.

  • News Corp.’s Star says it will launch two high-definition channels in 2009 using its Chinese-language library and Star Movies brand.

  • Caldecott Prods. Intl., part of Singapore pubcaster MediaCorp, will launch Caldecott HD on Internet and IPTV platforms such as Babelgum, Joost, Factual TV, ClixSmartv and WOWtv. Timeframe was a vague “within the next few months.” In line with Singapore government policy, Caldecott has been ramping up its output of HD content, especially factual programming. In the past 18 months it has been involved in 36 shows and claims that it has licensed each of them.

  • In Japan, satellite platform Sky Perfect Jsat wants to launch 62 HD channels by the end of 2009 and to lift that to 100 HD channels as soon as possible thereafter. Company has 3.5 million subscribers and plans to switch off its analog service by 2011.

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