ARY Digital hopes to grab eyeballs with Urdu version of KBC

And now get ready for an Urdu version of KBC.

ARY Digital, which is all set for a mid-January 2002 launch, has secured the Urdu rights for the game show from Celador. ARY Digital was all set for a post Diwali launch in the Middle East, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, but has been postponed due to delays in shifting from PAS 10 to Thaicom 3. The shift has been necessitated to cut down on time lags in transmission, says Live Satellite Media director Atul Saraf, who is distributing and marketing the channel in India.

Saraf expects the channel to reach nearly 20 million homes in the next five months. Currently a 24 hour free to air digital channel, ARY Digital is planning to go pay by April 2002. Positioned as a family entertainment channel, Saraf expects to do better than other Urdu channels that met a sad end in the region, armed as it is with a plethora of cross border soaps and Bollywood based shows. Its only competitor in the region, ETV Urdu, was launched in June this year, but Saraf says ARY Digital will counter the competition with 'better quality programming'. The channel, which will have 10 hours of original programming, has already commissioned four serials in the suspense and family genres and is building up a library of Pakistani movies. Most soaps will be shot in London, Dubai and Turkey and should appeal to a pan Asian audience, says Saraf. Seventy per cent of the programming mix is to sourced from Pakistan and the rest from India.

The Urdu KBC will stay true to the 'Who wants to be a millionaire?' format, but the finer details are yet to be worked out, says Saraf. The show will rope in a well known Pakistani actor to anchor the show, and is likely to go on air by mid 2002, he adds. The Urdu version will be the third from the subcontinent to launch a 'millionaire' style game show. Koteeswaran, the Tamil version, went on air in November 2000 on the Sun TV network, at a time when Star and 'Who wants to be a millionaire?' rights owner Celador were threatening to launch regional versions for Indian language channels.

ARY Digital is a television network owned by ARY, one of the largest gold manufacturers in the world, based in London. The channel was launched in August 2001. The network was formerly known as The Pakistani Channel; its name was changed when it was bought over by the ARY Group.

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