CNN goes south Asian with a vengeance

Waking up to the competitive environment in the most promising country after China, CNN has decided to launch a television service specific to south Asia beginning 1 July. Popular programmes are to be rescheduled for prime television viewing (beginning 20:00 hours daily), apart from offering locally produced shows specific to south Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh. 

"This huge region has many CNN viewers who have wanted their own channel for some time. CNN's new channel for South Asia is the network's biggest strategic move for many years," CNN International President Chris Cramer.

Under the new programming line up, CNN will have regional news on the hour, CNN's 'World News' every half-hour, plus special programming strands on technology and science and CNN's feature programming. 

New shows, produced locally, will also be developed for the South Asia service. 

"The launch of the South Asia channel is the next step in CNN International's ongoing regionalisation strategy and demonstrates our long-term commitment to the increasingly important South Asia region," said CNN International senior vice-president Rena Golden "CNN will continue to be vigilant in the region by bringing on board talent familiar with regional sensitivities and the socio-political environment."

Audiences will get more than their fill of CNN's popular anchor, Riz Khan, who will feature as a prominent presenter on the new channel. Additionally, business programmes will continue with 'Biz Asia' airing in prime-time and more regular business updates to be introduced from CNNfn's correspondent in Mumbai. 

"The Indian sub-continent is an important market for CNN and this new service will be an attractive offering for both viewers and cable operators. By time-shifting our programme schedule, the South Asia service will allow CNN's most popular programmes to reach viewers in the region during their prime time viewing hours," said Turner International India managing director Anshuman Misra.

The network will fully upgrade its current analogue signal to the advanced digital mode significantly improving the signal quality for local audiences. The CNN South Asia signal will be available via the PanAmSat-4 satellite. The IRD boxes will be distributed in South Asia by Turner International India Pvt. Ltd., which also distributes TCM, Cartoon Network and HBO. 

Will CNN's initiative be welcomed in India? It's quite likely that it will. Reason: it has in recent times gained cachet with Indian audiences, especially after its coverage of the Indian plane hijacking in Afghanistan. And because Indians and south Asians want the American view on the developments in the region.

But other issues will have to be tackled first: the pricing package for the digital service, and the response by other news services such as Star News, the BBC, Zee News, and the gaggle of other news channels that are expected to launch in the not too distant future. The BBC has a tremendous lead on it because it had started localising a long time back, the other services are run by locals.The Indian and south Asian trek for CNN has just begun.

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