Zee English and Movies launched

Two English entertainment channels were launched on 15 March by Zee Telefilms chairman Subhash Chandra and Chief Executive R.K. Singh in Mumbai. Zee Movies and Zee English will be offering fierce competition to Star World, Star Movies and HBO. Or at least so hopes the Zee Telefilms management.

The two channels are aiming at the niche but relatively large English speaking and understanding audiences in India and also lovers of B-grade movies and some up-to-date series from the US market. The launch coincides with the launch of the preview broadcast of global movie champ HBO over India.

Zee English and Zee Movies are free to air currently but will be encrypted as part of the Zee digital bouquet. The company is bringing in a small batch of Philips IRDs to seed the market until the transition to a digital bouquet.

Both the channels are airing a mix of eighties, nineties, and even the most recent season's programming from the US. On offer are series such as ER, Friends, The David Letterman show, Here's Lucy, Central Park West, Three's Company, Charlie Chaplin, Twilight Zone etc on Zee English.

In a bid to raise the hackles of Zee TV's former partner Star TV, the programming team has decided to air the consignment of Friends episodes it has the rights to just half an hour before it is aired on Star World.

The software for Zee Movies has been acquired from MGM, Pearson, Carlton, Fremantle, Diskovery, and Passport International. Some of the titles on offer include: Quest, Kazaam, Evil Dead, Leon.

Chandra points out that there will be a dedicated effort from the Zee Telefilms programming team to produce English language software which will find a market internationally. "Instead of importing software from foreign countries, we will develop our own content which will find buyers not only in India but also in the global village," he says.

Singh believes that the two English channels will break even in the next two to three years like any other Hindi entertainment channel.

Will he have to eat his words in two years time?

"Unlikely," says Chandra. "Ultimately it will be the consumer who will decide. And we are confident we will help him decide in our favour."

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