Roy asserts NDTV fast catching up on Aaj Tak

MUMBAI: Completing a year to the day of launching two news channels (launched 14 April 2003), the Prannoy Roy-promoted NDTV had its first roadshow event for the upcoming initial public offering (IPO).

As already reported, the IPO opens on 21 April and closes 28 April. The amount that NDTV expects to raise through the IPO is Rs 1,090 million.

The company has adopted the 100 per cent book building route for the process. The IPO will comprise fresh issue and an offer of shares of Rs 4 each in the price band of Rs 63-70 per share. Shareholders offering shares in the sale offer include GS Television Holdings, GS Media Holdings, Saffron Fund, JP Morgan Fleming India.

For the public the size of the offer will be Rs 1000 million while the rest will be for NDTV's employees.

In his first public address at a south Mumbai hotel after the "cooling off period" that had been in place in lieu of the upcoming IPO, NDTV chairman and wholetime director Prannoy Roy said, "We have launched an IPO at this time as we are confident that we are long term players. We are the only growing news broadcaster in India. The others are either flat or are in a state of decline. The gap between the share of Aaj Tak and NDTV India is falling. Tam data states that while Aaj Tak's share is 28 per cent NDTV's is 19 per cent. So the number one and two slots in the Hindi news channel arena have been clearly defined."

Roy went on to quote Tam data for the four weeks ended 20 March 2004. These are some of the figures he trotted out:

*NDTV 24x7 has the biggest reach of the English news channels reaching 19.58 million viewers. BBC is a distant second with 11.78 viewers.
*NDTV 24x7 has a market share of 37.1 per cent.
*NDTV India has a share of 17.3 per cent while Aaj Tak's is 31.5 per cent.
*NDTV India has a reach of 29.10 million viewers while Aaj Tak's is only
slightly higher at 30.45 million.
*In the Prime, Colour and S frequency bands NTDV India has stolen a march over Aaj Tak.
*NDTV 24x7 has 10 in the top 10 shows for English news channels. It has 180 out of the top 200 shows.

"Before we launched Aaj Tak had 200 out of 200 shows. Now they have 98 while NDTV India has 64 shows," Roy said.

Talking about the company's online initiative, Roy said it got the highest page views among the sites of all Indian news channels, according to Among all Indian news sites NDTV was third behind Rediff and Indiatimes, he said.

Roy also asserted that NDTV was setting the pace when it came to programming. "Before we launched all Hindi news channels were doing was simply feeding the audiences with news and more news. We started innovations like analytical shows, going out on the street to capture the mood of the people. We even introduced a comedy satire. Then the other channels started following our lead."

When asked about expansion plans that the fund infusion would be used for, Roy refused to elaborate, taking the cover that Sebi regulations prohibited him from making any forward looking statements. "It will be partly be used to repay loans," was all he would offer.

On the progress his channels had made in the last one year, he was expectedly more forthcoming. "I will say that our business is all about the quality of our people. That comes first. Marketing and our distribution team, who have done a fantastic job considering that we had to start from scratch then, back this up. A year ago there were doubts as to how we would be able to make a dent in the broadcasting business and our track record speaks for itself."

On the technical side Roy made a mention of the fully redundant earth station, the helicopter as the 15 Mpeg 4 OB vans. "The vans help us save costs on satellite renting. We introduced this concept when people had doubts regarding its feasibility." He also mentioned that the share of print to TV was approaching the global 50:50 mark. In the English language however the ratio at the moment was 85:15 in favour of print. While advertising as a percentage of the GDP was low Roy expected this to change in the next several years. It could up from .44 to .67, he said.

Regarding advertising sales, Roy said NDTV's inventory utilization on primetime was 41.2 per cent for the English channel while it is 34.2 per cent for NTDV India. NDTV has a base of 249 advertisers and has defined primetime as seven hours starting at 6 pm. It is using its strong reach and connectivity to attract new advertisers, he said.

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