iLabs acquires 60% in Lehren Entertainment, to launch first Bollywood news channel

MUMBAI: iLabs Capital, a venture fund which has among other investments a controlling interest in the TV9 chain of channels, has acquired 60 per cent stake in Mumbai-based Lehren Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. to launch the first Bollywood news channel.

iLabs is also expanding its broadcasting presence in Mumbai through the launch of TV9 Mumbai, a city-centric channel in Hindi language. This will be through Associated Broadcasting Company Pvt Ltd (ABCL), the company which is 80 per cent owned by iLabs and Unified Group and houses the TV9 channels.

In Lehren Entertainment, iLabs is making the investment through its wholly own subsidiary, Affiliated Media Company (AMC). Besides the TV channel, Lehren will have its other assets including a broadband portal and 10,000 hours of archival video.

Lehren TV has obtained the uplinking licence and plans to launch in April. "We are eyeing 14 April as the launch date. The dry run should start in mid-March," says Lehren Entertainment founder and MD Mritunjay Pandey.

The Bollywood-centric free-to-air news channel will also have a small portion of its content for other films across the country. Besides news, it will have chat and gossip formats. "It will be a Hinglish (predominantly Hindi but also have English language) channel," says Pandey.

The ad sales and uplinking will be handled by ABCL to drive in the synergies with the TV9 group of channels.

"We decided to join hands with Lehren because it has an old relationship with the film industry. With the other Hindi channel covering Mumbai, it will offer us a good bundle," says ABCL vice president operations KVN Murthy.

Lehren‘s engagement with Bollywood dates back to the pre-satellite era when it started film-based entertainment shows in 1987. The videos packaged film scenes, songs, interviews and magazine content in the kaleidoscopic format of Bollywood.

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