Sony gets its missing link in NDTV

NEW DELHI: The One Alliance today announced a three year distribution tie-up with NDTV for its proposed two news channels (a story that was broken by yesterday).

At the announcement in New Delhi this morning, NDTV president Prannoy Roy claimed that the offerings, to be launched simultaneously around 31 March, will be cutting edge, aimed at becoming the No.1 in their respective languages.

The agreement, as disclosed by Sony Entertainment TV India chief executive Kunal Dasgupta, was signed today at a five-star hotel's coffee shop by NDTV president Prannoy Roy, Dasgupta and Deepak Shourie, managing director of Discovery Networks India.

One Alliance is a joint venture between SET India and Discovery India and the entity's president is Shantonu Aditya.

Addressing a packed press conference here, Roy said, "We were wooed by others. In the end it was One Alliance that became the first choice because of their professionalism. It's a great step for us."

Roy also clarified that both, the Hindi and English news channels- involving software and hardware innovations not seen in India till now, will be launched together and not in a phased manner. He, however, declined to give more details about the channels saying, "There will be other times when we will disclose to the media those details."

The two news channels would be beamed through PanAmSat satellite, which would mean all the One Alliance channels would be on the same satellite.

"The combination of NDTV's two news channels with the tremendous reach of the One Alliance will be unbeatable," Roy maintained.

If one sets aside the surge in viewership of the One Alliance channels (Sony and SET Max) in recent times due to cricket, the bouquet has claimed to be reaching 26 million homes of the estimated 40 million cable and satellite Indian homes.

On One Alliance's part, Dasgupta said that NDTV's news channels coming on board would complete the important missing link -news and current affairs, in the bouquet. However, in the short term there would not be any change in the subscription rate of One Alliance channels as, it's "too early to say anything about the pricing" of the two digitally encrypted news channels coming on board.

"We also hope that by July, we would be able to take the viewership of NDTV channels up to 26 million homes that would be as much as an entertainment channel's reach," Dasgupta said.

Ten thousand boxes or IRDs are being fed in the market for the NDTV channels by the One Alliance team, which claimed that the number is almost three times more than another company that proposes to launch an English news channels and is not aligned with any bouquet.

"One Alliance's objective is to have a small bouquet, but with the most powerful of channels that are in the forefront in their respective genres," Dasgupta explained.

At the moment the One Alliance bouquet, one of the three in the Indian context, has channels that include Sony, SET Max, AXN, HBO, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and CNBC India. The last is slated to drift away to the Zee Turner bouquet after March 31, on the same day as NDTV - Star marriage comes to an end.

When quizzed on the CNBC India issue, Dasgupta, maintained that no notice has been sent by CNBC India yet to indicate that it is leaving for some other bouquet. "They better give One Alliance a notice well in advance," he added.

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