Channel Guide sets August deadline for formal launch

It's hoping to act as a guide in the maze that is Indian cable & satellite television today. Channel Guide a specific preview and menu channel which began its test run on 12 April 2001 may go for a formal launch tentatively on 15 August 2001, "We are in talks with major companies, the outcome of which will decide its formal launch," informs Ravi Deshmukh chief operating officer, Channel Guide India Ltd.

The channel is programmed to provide couch potatoes with a ready reckoner on TV shows. Its interactive menu allows viewers to explore, select and watch a variety of programmes, while browsing listings. "Channel Guide airs the programme listings of different channels between 9 am and 11:00 pm, reminding viewers about their favourite programme timings," says Deshmukh.

Currently the free to air channel has a million strong viewership, and receives inputs from 27 major channel among which are Star, Zee, Sony, HBO, ESPN, he reveals. The channel is available in nine states nationally: Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andra Pradesh, Delhi, Goa and Assam.

"So far we have received a good response, and we will do better after the channels which have been reluctant in providing us with information drop their inhibitions," emphasizes Deshmukh. "But the response is improving. English, Hindi entertainment and infotainment channels like Discovery and National Geographic, and other sports channels are already supporting us. Next month Bengali and Punjabi channels will join our bandwagon and the rest of the regional languages will soon be added."

Currently, the channel is carrying TV promos and listings gratis for its broadcasting partners. In time to come, it plans to start charging for its air time wherein channels like Sony or Zee or Star would be in a position to sponsor their own promo and interstitial programming blocks. Five of the 10 hours the channel will air will be free to air. Of the remainder, three will be set aside for broadcaster-sponsored promos, while local commercial advertising will go to account for the remainder two hours.

With an initial investment of Rs 100 million (10 crore), the channel has also plans to foray into to webcasting and cater to web savvy viewers and international audiences interested in Indian television fare.

"We have a long term vision for Channel Guide India. We cannot really commit when we will really break even, but our target has been set as June 2002," points out Deshmukh.

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