Essel group's HITS model to have additional 3rd party TV, radio channels

NEW DELHI: The Subhash Chandra-promoted Essel group is looking at having over 20 third party television channels and 12 satellite radio channels as part of the headend in the sky (HITS) project and KU-band direct-to-home television service.

The HITS and DTH project is being implemented by Zee Telefilms' cable arm Siti Cable, while the licence holder for uplinking and turning around TV channels (in case of HITS) is another Chandra company, ASC Enterprises, which is also separately implementing India's first private sector satellite project called Agrani. Zee Telefilms is an Essel Group enterprise.

Zee Telefilms additional VC and head of Siticable Jawahar Goel

"We are looking at giving about 12 satellite radio channels as an add-on service for the HITS and DTH projects," Zee Telefilms additional vice-chairman and head of Siti Cable Jawahar Goel told

HITS is the project through which Siti Cable is introducing conditional access system with the help of imported set top boxes that are claimed to be costing about $ 48, apparently cheaper than the cost of box being bandied around by some other broadcasters.

Though at the moment, the Zee Turner bouquet has 19 channels, including the newly launched Trendz, additional third party channels would be brought in as part of the HITS and DTH offering to the subscriber.

"We have to bring in more channels to increase the depth of the offerings in the DTH package and, for that, we are looking at more niche channels that are available globally," Goel, a younger brother of Chandra, said, adding that he has not been able to find some time because of the fast developments taking place on the conditional access front in India at the moment, otherwise he would have closed more third-party channel deals.

For the DTH package, the Essel-Zee combine is looking at introducing 48 television channels in the first phase that would be increased to 60 in the second phase and after a year the number of channels would be further enhanced.

Dwelling on the satellite radio channels that are to be offered by Zee, Goel said that the company has already received a letter from India's pubcaster Prasar Bharati to include some All India Radio channels as part of the sat radio offering.

Goel is also hopeful that some of the private FM radio players would like to hop on to the sat radio bandwagon being offered as part of HITS and DTH and where the service would be as good and cheaper than that of World Space, which offers over 100 radio channels delivered through satellite, including the likes of CNN, BBC, DD and music channels.

ASC chief executive Puneet Goenka

"How many people have World Space receivers in the country that are fairly costly ?," Puneet Goenka, chief executive of ASC Enterprise asked, pointing out that their service comes at no extra cost to the consumer and the radio channels can be played through the television sets only without having to buy a separate radio set. Goenka is the eldest son of Chandra.

And, if to give the icing on the cake, Goel added that Zee's DTH service, slated to be launched later this year (15 August looks like a good date, it seems), would only be about $ 12 costlier than the HITS offering for the customer.

The battle to get the boxes into the homes of Indian cable consumers, it seems, has begun in all earnest.

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