Television

Asianet planning news channel

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MUMBAI: Leading Malayalam language channel Asianet is putting together plans to launch a news channel within the next three to four months, chief operating officer Mohan Nair said on Saturday.

"We have a full-fledged news dissemination structure already in place for our news programmes so to convert that into a dedicated channel should not be a problem," Nair said. "Towards this end we have just got VSNL (Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited - in charge of international telecommunication services in India) clearance for a transponder," he added.

"The news bulletins on Asianet get the highest viewership after our hit serial 'Sthree' so we are confident a 24-hour news channel will do well," Nair said.

On how his channel was doing vis-a-vis arch rival Surya of the Sun group, Nair said though they were facing stiff competition, they were still ahead in the channel wars.

Questioned on whether Asianet planned to join the gameshow bandwagon, Nair said Asianet would stick with what has worked for it till now, namely serials. Surya is launching a gameshow hosted by Malayalam film star Mukesh on the lines of the popular "Koteeswaran" on Sun, the leading Tamil language channel.

Nair admitted that an area of concern for the company was Asianet Kaveri, the Kannada language launched in June 2000, which was still to really take off. He ascribed it to the fallout from the kidnapping of popular Kannada film star Rajkumar who was released on 15 November after 108 days in captivity. During the kidnap period there was a virtual shutdown of the Kannada film industry, Nair explained. "This resulted in producers contracted to provide programming for Asianet being unable to do so causing a severe software shortage for the channel, forcing us to air re-runs. This really crippled us at a time when the channel was trying to establish itself and we haven't really managed to recover the lost ground," Nair said.

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