Urdu channel launches 1 November

Urdu Television Network which has been beaming a test signal for the past three months is making its debut on 1 November. UTN is promoted by Khalid Bhaimia, an eminent Pakistani banker, with interests in television production.

The channel has signed up with Zee Telefilms since 2 October on the distribution and marketing front. Zee will be distributing the channel in India and west Asia. In consideration of that carriage, Zee TV has agreed to extend its marketing and Management expertise particularly in the area of content and packaging to UTN on commercial terms. The benefit for Zee TV: it gets another niche channel catering to a well-heeled Urdu speaking audience, which helps make its digital bouquet look a lot more attractive.

'We are looking at the future DTH and DTO scenario, where having a right bouquet of channel will help us to garner more revenue," says Monica Srivastava, who heads UTN's marketing along with Zee Sports. She adds that the channel is getting a good response from advertisers. 'Already a few FMCGs, and soft drink manufacturers have agreed to advertise on the channel."

Deputy Chief Executive Satish Menon - who heads the channel - reveals that "as of now we only have agreement under which UTN will be content provider and we will be looking after distribution and marketing. There is no revenue sharing, We are working out the same." The 24 hour channel will initially be free-to-air and in be delivered in an analogue mode off AsiaSat 3S.

At startup UTN, has four hours of original programming: two hours each from India and Pakistan. "The content is going to be different. I assure viewers," says Almas Shah, programming controller. "The Urdu will not be heavy but normal which can be understood by the masses. We are looking at a huge audience not only from India and Pakistan but also west Asia UK, USA, Canada, Australia."

UTN has already gathered programming for three months. Zee is helping in content aggregation. Shah says UTN's positioning is as an entertainment channel. One movie will be shown per day with a huge chunk of the library coming from Pakistan.

Says Shah: "We have got a very good response for our trial run, even though it was a repeat telecast." She has no fears of the channel being labeled as a Muslim channel and any related controversy since content is being sourced from Pakistan. "There will be no mention of politics, current affairs or religion. UTN will have the final authority as far as the profile of the channel is concerned. So it is not at all a Muslim channel but a pure Urdu entertainment channel," she says.

But competition is creeping up in the form of at least another three Urdu channels: one from Eenadu, Lashkara and the long-in-gestation Falak TV. Now it is left to be seen whether Zee TV and UTN will take advantage of the first movers' advantage.

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