Cellcast PLC offloads majority stake to PE firms, Indian outfit launches social TV channel MyTV

MUMBAI: UK-based Cellcast PLC, a leading provider of participatory television programming and interactive telephony technology for the fast growing cross-platform digital entertainment sector, has parted with a majority stake to two private equity firms in Cellcast Asia Holdings, Mauritius (CAH).

CAH wholly owns the India outfit, Cellcast Interactive India.

Sources familiar with the development said while the PE firms will hold around 62 per cent in CAH, Cellcast PLC ( listed in UK) will reduce to a small minority. The management team of Cellcast Interactive India will have a bigger stake than Cellcast PLC but couldn‘t confirm the exact holdings.

"Cellcast PLC has become a minority partner. The management team has roped in a new investor in the second round of funding," said Cellcast Asia Holdings founder and CEO Pankaj Thakar.

Vertex, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Temasek Holdings, has participated in the second round of funding. CAH has raised $9.5 million in the fresh round of funding. Canaan Partners, which manages capital of $3.5 billion, had pumped in $5.25 million in the first round.

Cellcast Interactive India has launched a new and one-of-its-kind social TV channel, MyTV. It will bring about interactivity across three platforms – television, Internet (including social media platforms) and mobile. Viewers participating in any show will be able to see interactions from other mediums as well as in real time.

"We have an investment outlay of Rs 750 million for MyTV," said Thakar.

The programming of the channel will remain ad free but the content will be created in such a way that brands can be integrated into it.

MyTV is being made available across the western, eastern and northern belts of the country. The company has already done distribution deals with Hathway, Airtel Digital TV and Reliance Digital TV apart from independent operators in Delhi, Pune, Mumbai and Punjab markets.

"Our aim is to reach to over 35 million analogue and digital homes in the first phase itself," Cellcast COO - Television Ashutosh said.

The channel aims at reaching out to varied audiences in the 15+ age group.

Ashutosh added, “Our vision of creating MyTV was to offer consumers another interactive platform where the multiple mediums can be integrated to offer an enhanced experience. Our viewers are our customers, thus the value delivered by this channel needs to be so much more. Also, by eliminating ad breaks on MyTV, our audience will be more engaged on this unique interactive approach to entertainment. Each of our shows are independent properties with separate online and offline revenue streams.”

BAG Network is the official distribution partner of Cellcast’s MyTV, especially across the Hindi-speaking belt in India.

The channel features over 20 hours of programming with shows like Bid2Win, My Studio, The Big Deal and Chor Machaye Shor, among others.

Additionally, MyTV has signed actors like Aman Verma, Swapnil Joshi and Sudha Chandran to host some of its properties.

Thakar said, “Cellcast is a pioneer in the business of interactive television. With a change in the profile of the television audience over the last few years, there has been a shift in the way the younger audience wants to interact with content they see on television. MyTV will fill this void by offering viewers an opportunity to connect and interact with content actively rather than just view it as passive participants."

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