Television

Geo TV to set up distribution base in India; plans to start India-specific feed

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NEW DELHI: Geo TV, the satellite television venture from the Pakistan-based Jung Group, plans to set up distribution base in India and also start an India-specific feed of the channel.

Speaking to indiantelevision.com on the sidelines of the Cable Quest-organised broadcast and cable show here, Geo TV's director distribution Hasan Mustafa said, "We have some interesting plans to undertake aggressive distribution initiatives in India as we feel there's a huge market available to us here."

At present, Geo TV, an Urdu-language channel that broadcasts entertainment and news-based programmes, is available in India on Dish TV's DTH platform, apart from some pockets in the country where the local operators feel there is a concentration of Muslim population.

According to Mustafa, though he would not be able to give a time frame to the initiatives planned, but they are likely to happen soon. "The India feed is being put together and it would be different from the Geo TV that is currently being viewed here," he added.

The main purpose of the India feed is to have more Indian programming on the channel, which need "not necessarily mean accepting advertisements from companies based here." He added, "We are looking at having only entertainment-oriented programmes for the India feed."

Mustafa pointed out that Geo TV would continue to be a digitally free to-air channel s this is one of the surest way of increasing penetration in the Indian cable and satellite TV market.

With a stiff distribution target for India, Geo TV plans to seed the market with about 10,000 integrated receiver decoders (IRDs) amongst the cable ops free of cost in the initial phase.

"The decoder box does cost about Rs. 5,000, but we are looking at subsidizing it and unveil attractive packages for the Indian cable operators," Mustafa said.

As part of the distribution plan, Geo TV is also weighing the option of siding with an existing bouquet that may just help in giving a fillip to the penetration process.

Though he refused to confirm or deny it, cable industry sources indicated that in recent times, Geo TV has been holding talks with Zee Turner, Star India and even a LK Modi company for distribution purpose. Amongst some other channels, the Modi company also looks after the distribution responsibilities of another Dubai-based channel, Ten Sports.

"We are talking to everybody," Mustafa said, adding that investments would not be a problem for Geo TV.

Earlier, Geo TV has said that with a conscious bridge the Indo-Pak chasm, it would sign up a number of Indian TV artistes and producers for projects.

Among some of the Indo-Pak programming scheduled are the Sunil Salgia directed sitcom Lakhon Mein Teen. The 52-episode comedy involves around the adventure of three friends -- two Pakistanis and one Indian -- who go to Dubai in search of a job. The cast includes Ashok Saraf and Pakistan's Javed Sheikh and Ismail Tara as the three friends. Ravi Gosain and Anil Pandit are also roped in for the sitcom.

Geo TV went on air from August 14, 2002. The channel broadcasts 24 hours a day from Dubai Media City to give viewers in UAE, Pakistan, Mauritius, the US and Bangladesh news, besides reality and talk shows, soaps and quiz shows.

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