Zee adds Realty TV to bouquet

MUMBAI / NEW DELHI: Subhash Chandra's Zee Telefilms is certainly not letting any grass grow under its feet following the defection of movie channel HBO from the Zee-Turner platform to Sony Entertainment's One Alliance.

In a deal signed two days ago but announced today, Zee-Turner has entered into a distribution agreement with the Zone Broadcasting (Maximum Realty) Ltd for distribution in India of Realty TV, a channel devoted solely to reality television programming. The channel will be launching in India in January, industry sources say.

It is further learned that Zee-Turner will be hiking its full package rate from the current Rs 42 to around Rs 60. The full package includes all the Zee channels, the Alphas, the Turner channels (Cartoon Network and CNN), Zee's educational channel ZED and Realty TV. However, judging by the packaging structure that Zee adopted earlier in the year wherein it offered various combinations of channels at different prices, most operators will be paying lower rates.

Meanwhile, today's Financial Express has quoted Star India CEO Peter Mukerjea as saying the lead network had decided to maintain status quo on its rates and would concentrate instead on driving up connectivity.

While Star's distribution head Tony D'Silva maintains that a final decision on this would only be made next week, if as reported Star has decided to refrain from going in for a hike, it is bound to increase the pressure from cable operators if Zee hikes its full package rate to Rs 60.

Meanwhile, industry sources say that Turner will inform Zee by next week whether premium movie channel Cinemax can be brought into the bouquet to replace HBO. HBO being a stakeholder in Cinemax does complicate matters. Further, with HBO and Star Movies having tied up most of the rights for new Hollywood blockbusters, there may also be an issue of getting decent titles on the channel to contend with.

Realty TV is a UK-based channel launched about a month ago, industry sources say. Realty TV is also available in South Africa.

Alongside the Realty TV announcement, Zee also informed the Bombay Stock Exchange that its board had today approved and ratified the distribution agreement entered into between Zee-Turner Television Eighteen India Ltd for distribution of CNBC channel in India.

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