Urdu channel ARY Digital to start beaming end November

Urdu Satellite entertainment channel ARY Digital which has started its test run in India recently, is all set to launch the channel by end November.

Atul Saraf, director, Live Satellite Media Ltd, which is handling distribution and marketing for the channel in India says: "We are planning to reach close to 20 million homes in the next five months." Currently, the channel is shown only on two networks. "Our target is to reach out to the Urdu speaking people in India." Initially, the channel will target the north, where Urdu is better understood.

Asked how ARY would avoid the fate that befell UTN and other Urdu channel wannabes, Saraf says the problem with other Urdu channels has been that they don't have enough quality programming. "We have quite a good number of quality programmes with us. We also have the rights for many Pakistani movies. Moreover, we are procuring programmes from India too." The channel has currently commissioned four serials. Seventy per cent of the programming mix is currently sourced from Pakistan, the rest is sourced from India.

The channel is a 24-hour free to air channel, with 10 hours of original programming.

Saraf brushed aside doubts on whether the heavily Pakistani programming would create any problems in India, claiming that entertainment based programmes were not likely to cause any upsets. "We are planning to come out with serials with both Indian and Pakistani actors, which will be shot in the UK and Dubai. The message that we want to send is that people don't have animosity against each other, it is the lack of communication and trust that has worsened relations."

ARY is planning to start its pay services after April 2002. Advertisers have not yet been approached, but Saraf does not seem worried about the marketing part.

The channel will be shifted from Pas-4 to Thaicom-3 within the next fortnight, to avoid the time lag in transmission.

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 purchased by the ARY Group.

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