High noon drama over Nickelodeon distribution

A major brawl has broken out between Zee TV-owned Siticable and the management of Nickelodeon, the Viacom-owned kid's channel launched in India last year. The reason: the latter's discontent about how the channel is being distributed by Siticable in India. Apparently, the pay TV service has managed to get a cable TV penetration of less than 3-4 million, and a paying subscriber base less than one tenth of that.

The Nickelodeon Singapore office has been working on handing over the management of the business to MTV India. The details of the distribution deal will become clearer in the next two months. According to sources within MTV, the company would like to distribute the channel on its own as its management feels it has built up enough of a relationship with Indian cable operators. MTV India managing director Alex Kuruvilla believes that his company has enough strengths in distribution to take on independent channels outside of the Viacom network and distribute them in India.

The problem as far as the kid's channel is concerned, according to sources, is that Nickelodeon and Siticable are bound together by a five year agreement. Of this just about a year has been completed. And there is no way Siticable will give it up easily. MTV India is just as determined to distribute it itself. The battle therefore may have just begun.

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