Disney firms up plans to launch its three channels

CANNES: Walt Disney Television International president David Hulbert is quite gung-ho about India. At MipTV in Cannes, Hulber told a European media website that his company was more interested in India than China. He said that Walt Disney Television is chatting with Indian distributors to introduce "two or three" channels in India this year.

"We are in discussions with people like Star, ESS and Sony about distribution as part of their bundle rather than launching the channel as a joint-venture," Hulbert told the website. The final call on its distribution partner is expected to be taken by July and a Diwali launch of the three Disney channels - Playhouse, Toons and TDC - is looking increasingly likely.

The media powerhouse only recently severed relations with its more than 10-year-old partner Modi Entertainment Network (MEN) and shuttered its joint venture with the Lalit Modi promoted MEN, Walt Disney India Private Limited.

Hulbert shrugged off the recent CAS imbroglio adding that he was quite sanguine that the Telecom Regulatory Authority (Trai) would not bring a heavy hand on the cable and satellite television broadcasting industry, working as a facilitator. He added that Disney has already started dubbing Disney programmes into Hindi, Tamil and Telegu for the new channels.

Additionally, the company is also on a recruitment drive for its proposed channels and has appointed local agencies to help it zoom in on the talent. The recent Ficci Frames conference held in Mumbai last month had witnessed the the senior Asian Disney management in full attendance.

According to its application with the Foreign Investment Promotion Board, it will be setting up a wholly-owned subsidiary in India, and will invest $10m in India over the next five years. Besides the new channels, the company intends to take a dekko at other forays such as production and distribution of local movies, branded merchandising, theme parks and resorts.

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