Viacom reworks Asia strategy

Viacom Incorporated, which has been toying with the idea of setting up operations in India to give its channels other than MTV a push, has left that job to its subsidiary MTV Networks Asia.

Viacom, which has MTV, children's channel Nickelodeon, Nick at Night (for older kids), VH1 and Black Entertainment Television under its umbrella in the US, has left it to MTV Networks Asia to handle all operations related to its channels.

The first on the agenda is Nickelodeon, which has been struggling to gain a toehold in the Indian market. We will probably see VH1 also making its entry sometime in the middle of the year.

Nickelodeon, for which a major thrust is planned over the coming months, will be handled by MTV India in tandem with Zee Telefilms. MTV and Zee have set aside their differences over how the channel is to be marketed and pushed through and the results will become evident in the next couple of months, Sanjeev Hiremath, MTV's distribution head, says.

Nickeledeon is being sold in India as part of Zee's Direct to operator (DTO) package and and the distribution of set boxes are going on at a brisk pace, Hiremath said. "However, ad sales will be handled by our team," he pointed out.

"MTV is looking after the other South Asian markets like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal," Hiremath said.

Sainath Aiyar, head corporate communications Zee Telefilms, said Nickelodeon was getting preferred carriage on Siticable (part of the Zee group) and was airing on the Zee TV channel twice a day which was already increasing its visibility. Nickelodeon appears in the 8:30 am to 9:30 am morning slot and the 4:30 to 5:30 pm evening slot.

Aiyar, however, admitted that the programmes, which replaced Disney Hour in same slots, didn't have the kind of viewer recognition that the Disney programmes enjoyed. "It will still be a while before Nickelodeon establishes itself," Aiyar said.

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