Television

UTV LOOKS AT DD BROADBAND BONDING AND 2001 IPO

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Media company UTV's Singapore subisdiary is in talks with state-owned broadcaster DD to promote its online initiative, ddindia.com in Singapore. UTV Chairman Ronnie Screwvala says that revenue sharing discussions are on to launch ddindia.com on the UTV-owned sharkstream.com, its streaming video portal. Screwvala refused to divulge any further details on what the revenue share is likely to be as nothing had been finalised as yet.

He, however, pointed out that sharkstream.com has a subscriber base of 90,000 subscribers in Singapore courtesy its linkup with the local broadband initiative there, Singapore One. UTV receives a part of the Sing$ 3 to $9 per month that Singapore One collects from each of its subs. "The arrangement is under review," points out Screwvala.

Currently, sharkstream.com webcasts 17 video channels and 70 audio channels. 180 hours of programming are available for pay per view access to subscribers. sharkstream.com has also recently launched via MSO GigaMedia in Taiwan, and plans an Indian launch this month.

Screwvala added that the UTV board had recently approved the prospectus for its proposed public issue, and expects to place it with Sebi withn three weeks. UTV hopes to launch the US$ 40 million (Rs 1,859 million) public issue in early January 2001, to fund its expansion plans.

Some 90 percent of the issue will be sold via the book building route, with 10 percent being offered to retail investors. The funds are slated to be utilised to add content at both UTV and its animation offshoot UTV Tons, the company's broadband projects and finally to reduce the its present debt.

The UTV IPO has been one of the most awaited in recent times. Announced about a year ago, it has yet to make its debut. Screwvala and his team have been threatening to unravel it almost every two months. But they have decided against it time and again thanks either to the Nasdaq downturn, or the fizzling of new economy stocks. Hopefully, UTV means business this time.

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