Times, BBC look to shake up print media scene with JV

MUMBAI: The Indian print media industry is set for exciting times. The Times Group and BBC Magazines (a division of BBC Worldwide) today announced the signing of a formal agreement to set up a joint venture company to publish magazines in India.

The 50:50 JV will produce and market magazines from both companies in India. It will also facilitate the exchange of content, titles and know-how for the Indian market.

While the formation of the new 50:50 JV will take place only after the necessary statutory and regulatory approvals have been received, the aim is to come out with a number of localised niche publications. The JV will also take over the publishing of the 29 magazines that are published by the Times Group.

Other magazines that the JV will look to grow in circulation include Just Like That, Kidzone, Shipping Journal. Addressing a media briefing this afternoon Bennett, Coleman and Co. MD Vineet Jain said, "In October we had signed a 50:50 JV for the magazine business and today we are announcing the finalisation of the deal. BBC's brands stand for integrity, credibility and excellence. For us, with Femina and Filmfare we have two magazines that also form a part of public consciousness."

Jain said a final decision on the magazines that would be launched was still to be made as the matter was under study. "In a few weeks time the specifics of the plan would be revealed," he added.

Arun Arora, president of Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd, said he expected joint venture to redefine the rules of the magazine business. He said that with the economy growing at an explosive pace, consumer aspirations, too, was rising rapidly. "We are looking for a multiplier effect and not one plus one is equal to two. Our tie-up which is the first of its kind for us, will enable us to better anticipate the needs of the readers. The burgeoning upper middle class is increasingly becoming interested in niche areas like golf, motoring. Our aim will be to develop satisfactory products that will meet those needs."

BBC Magazines MD Peter Phippen said that the Indian magazine market had significant growth potential. "The magazine sector will grow more rapidly than your economy. We respect the Times Group enormously. Our top publications include Top Gear, the women's magazine Eve as well as Radio Times," Phippen said.

While no one from either the Times or the BBC were willing to make any firm comment on the likely BBC titles that would be launching in India via the new JV, the general drift of the briefing did offer some indicators. Top of the list comes the popular auto magazine TOP Gear that also leverages the brand value of the BBC World TV show of the same name. Then there is Radio Times which covers the television and entertainment industry. Parenting, Good Homes and Good Food are other likely candidates for India entry.

Investment bankers JM Morgan Stanley were the advisers in the deal on behalf of Bennett Coleman. The Times Group has a portfolio of 50 regular titles.

In 2002/03 BBC Worldwide returned £123 million to the BBC.

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