Raghav Bahl launches S Asian infotainment channel in US

MUMBAI: Raghav Bahl is quietly expanding his media business. On Thursday, he launched in the US an English-language news and infotainment channel - South Asia WorldR - dedicated to South Asians all over the world.

Bahl's new venture will not be through TV18, the listed company founded and promoted by him. He has floated India World Network USA Inc, which will own and manage South Asia WorldR. The holding company is SAW Holdings Ltd.

But it is not that TV18 will not have a revenue rub-off effect. South Asia World has operational arrangements with TV18. The broadcasting experience and management skills of TV18 will be utilised to run the new channel positioned for South Asians in the US. TV18 already runs and manages the business channel CNBC-TV18 in India.

Queried by as to the share structure of SAW Holdings, as well as who alse held stakes in the company, Bahl was not forthcoming, other than to state that the SAW had been formed by a group of stakeholders.

Broadcasting live from India, the channel will be exclusively available on the Dish Network (owned by Echostar, rival of the Murdoch controlled DirecTV platform) and will provide news and views from India and the subcontinent. It will also include local coverage of the South Asian community in the United States as well as in the UK.

Speaking at the launch, an excited Bahl said, "South Asia World is the realisation of a dream we've had for 5 years - to create a television forum for Indians the world over. The Indian American community is the fastest growing, representing some of the richest populations in the US. This channel is not only a celebration of the life success of these people, but will also act as a platform to highlight issues that impact their progress."

The channel will extensively cover Bollywood and cricket. Said India World Network USA Inc CEO Louie Fernandes, "There is a high demand for such programming in the South Asian American community, especially as it gets integrated into mainstream society at a rapid pace. The channel will not only cover various segments of this community including long time immigrants and the American-born generation, but also be the interface between this successful immigrant community and fellow Americans."

Bahl has set up a separate infrastructure: a fully equipped studio in the Empire State Building in New York, bureaux in Washington DC. and the San Francisco Bay Area, reporters from coast-to-coast in the US, and in-live news studios in Mumbai and Delhi.

"The addition of South Asia World reinforces Dish Network's commitment to offer our subscribers comprehensive international programming and exclusive content," said Tracy Thompson, EchoStar's vice president of International Programming. "South Asia World provides customers with the news and views from their native countries, connecting them to their home country thousands of miles away."

The channel will be available on an "a la carte" basis for $4.99 a month. Consumers opting for annual subscription will be given one month free of charge. "A subscription to America's Top 60 or above, Dish Latino or above, or any South Asian channel or package is needed to subscribe to South Asia World. Additional equipment may be required to receive these channels," the company said in a release.

Programming Highlights

The channel's signature news programme, Our World Today, covers political and business news from India and the subcontinent as well as the latest news from the cricket pitch and the world of entertainment.

Shows like The Diaspora and Talk Time will be anchored from the studio in the Empire State Building with reports from across the US. The Diaspora will profile successful Indians and expatriate newsmakers in fields as varied as politics and business to sports and entertainment. On Talk Time celebrities, newsmakers and experts will discuss and debate the issues that matter to the Indian-American community.

FAQ is a show that addresses concerns of non-resident Indians and provides guidance and advice on making an investment in India, information on job/ business opportunities in India and other similar topics.

The line-up also includes shows hosted by well-known personalities - a travel show hosted by Sanjana Kapoor, an art appreciation show hosted by Mallika Sarabhai, daily current affairs anchored by Karan Thapar and interviews with global business heads by Raghav Bahl. Harsha Bhogle presents Masterstrokes, which features some of the most prominent names from the world of sports and business and their precepts for survival in the competitive world.

Special series include Spirituality@work, lessons from Dr. Deepak Chopra and Lessons in Excellence based on Sumantra Ghoshal's precepts on strategic management.

Morning Bell and Closing Bell cover the Indian markets in detail - first- hand reports, reactions and discussions with dealers, analysts and other experts at the start and end of the trading day.

Even Showbiz and glitz will be covered on a daily basis with Show Time India. And Trendmill gives the latest in lifestyle, fashion and entertainment.

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