Television

Sahara may get into ground distribution

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NEW DELHI: The Subrata Roy-promoted Sahara India is "actively exploring" a foray into ground distribution of television channels.

This is because the channel is facing competition from the likes of Star India and Zee Telefilms - which is seen as a hindrance to Sahara's entertainment and news channels being positioned on the prime band.

"Personally, I feel we should get into distribution, but I haven't yet spoken to the chairman of the group (Subrata Roy) officially," Sushanto Roy, the newly appointed CEO of Sahara India's media and entertainment division told indiantelevision.com in an interview today.

Incidentally, Sushanto is the eldest son Subrata.

As part of a bigger strategy, the group is also exploring whether it makes business sense to get into film distribution, considering that nearly 15-20 films commissioned by Sahara, are in various stages of production. Some of the films have reportedly roped in some big film stars.

"If we do get into this distribution work, then we'd like to have a composite unit that may look into distribution of TV channels at the ground level, as also films made by us and others," Sushanto said.

As a precursor, Sahara India would be co-distributing and co-managing the pre-release publicity for Feroze Khan's latest directorial product, Janesheen, which has Fardeen Khan in the lead role and a former Miss India, Celina Jaitley, providing the eye candy.

According to Sushanto, Star (through its 26 per cent stake in Hathway Datacom) and Zee almost controls the entire ground distribution of TV channels between them. As a result, other channels like Sahara often find it difficult to get the desired penetration despite good content.

Pointing out that Sahara is 'studying' the ground realities of distribution at the moment, Sushanto said, "We feel there are still 20-25 per cent independent cable operators in the industry whom we can rally around with us."

Without saying so in as many words, Sushanto pointed out that in many places both Siti Cable (Zee Tele's cable arm) and Hathway Datacom have kept Sahara Manoranjan and even the national news channel out of the prime band. Especially, at times when the entertainment channel has had audience-pulling compelling programme on air.

He added, "It's difficult to keep the cable operators (under control), but we may just go ahead and do it as we are seeing that our entertainment channel, especially, is facing difficulties of penetration and subsequent additional viewership that could come our way because of some compelling products that we have on air."

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