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Times expected to launch two TV channels in 'phase 1'

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MUMBAI: The country's most influential press publication, The Times of India Group, looks to have more or less finalised the channels with which it will make its entry into the television business.

Present indications are that the Times will be launching two channels either in tandem or spaced apart by just a few months. Lifestyle and entertainment channel Zoom and a "secular" spiritual channel are what will be coming off the Times Television's blocks in the initial phase, it has been confirmed to indiantelevision.com.

Lifestyle, events, music, fashion and of course the film world, will all form part of the content that goes into Zoom.

Times is tentatively targeting August / September for the launch of the channel(s), as per presently available information.

Queried as to what was the thinking behind the selection of the title Zoom for the lifestyle channel, Times Group managing director Vineet Jain told indiantelevision.com that the word association was with photography. Zooming in on the lifestyle and entertainment world is what the channel aims to do. The name selection is Jain's. It was Jain who chose the title Mirchi for the group's radio FM venture as well.

As for the name of the spiritual channel, according to information available with indiantelevision.com, though there are some names being debated, nothing has been finalised as yet.

To a question from indiantelevision.com about the buzz in the industry that the spiritual channel would primarily be focussed on the "Art of Living Foundation" and its "guru" Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Jain categorically ruled it out. Jain, terming the spiritual channel a "secular" one, said all faiths would be represented on it.

Jain was speaking to indiantelevision.com on Thursday on the sidelines of a media briefing announcing the signing of a formal agreement by the Times Group and BBC Magazines (a division of BBC Worldwide) to set up a 50:50 joint venture company to publish magazines in India.

Meanwhile, there are two more channels on the drawing board which have, however, been put on the backburner for the present - a business news channel and a music channel. Industry sources say it will take at least another year for the business channel to launch. When queried about it, Jain would not be drawn into a comment on what time lines, if any, had been set for the two channels' launches. He did say, however, that no firm decision had been made as to which might launch earlier - the business channel or the music channel.

The obvious advantage that the music channel offers is that it would cost far less to get up and running. As far as content is concerned, there are the Times Music titles that can be promoted. Of course, it is also a fact that Times Music, which is heavily into devotional music, could as well or possibly even better be leveraged on the spiritual channel.

If and when the business channel launches, the clear synergy that one expects would be leveraged is The Economic Times brand for both content and marketing.

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