Nickelodeon launching Hindi band 4 September

It's been a year and ten months since the Viacom-owned kid's channel Nickelodeon entered Indian air space but it might as not have come at all considering the kind of recognition levels it has achieved till date. In a fresh attempt to get it some viewer cachet, Nickelodeon will be launching a Hindi band of programming - "Nick Masala" - from 4 September.

Beginning the first Tuesday of September (the 4th) "Nick Masala" will be aired thrice a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays the slotting is in the evening band from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM while on Sundays it will be in the noon band from 11 am to 1 PM Depending on how the new initiative is received, MTV India - which is directly responsible for pushing the channel in India (without disturbing the existing distribution arrangement with Zee that is) - will take a call on whether to increase Hindi programming.

How Nickelodeon is being distributed by the Zee-promoted Siticable has been a major sore point, with the pay TV service reportedly managing to get a cable TV penetration of less than 3-4 million, and a paying subscriber base less than one tenth of that.

Queried about what Zee was doing to improve things, Partha Sinha senior VP, marketing and communication said a promotional push which involved a host of on-ground activities - including direct-to-people contact efforts and other promotional spots - were in the pipeline to increase the visibility of the channel. Sinha said the rollout of these initiatives would take off by September-end.

DISNEY SHOWS ON FOUR ALPHA CHANNELS: Sinha confirmed that Zee had entered into a deal with Buena Vista (distributors of Disney programming in India) for airing dubbed Disney shows on four of Zee's Alpha regional channels - Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, and Punjabi. As for whether there were plans to bring Disney onto the other Alpha channels, Sinha replied in the negative.

When queried as to whether there wasn't cross-purpose activity going on when Disney shows were airing on Alpha channels while Zee was supposed to be promoting Nickelodeon, Sinha had this to say. He justified the move on the grounds that before Nickelodeon could be introduced onto the Alpha channels it would have to become more familiar to viewers. A chicken and egg scenario it would seem.

In the meantime, Nickelodeon still has a mountain to climb before it can turn from being a mere blip on the viewerscope to something more substantial.

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