Sun TV, Astro Malaysia in $ 25 million JV; to launch Bengali channel

MUMBAI: Sun TV and Malaysia's Astro All Asia Network have entered into a $ 25 million agreement for the establishment of a joint venture to originate, aggregate and distribute television programming and channels for a global audience.

Both parties in the $ 25 million (Rs 1125 million) JV aim to collaborate in content creation for filmed and other entertainment products in Indian languages including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi and Bengali for distribution to international markets, informs an official release.

The agreement proposes to launch a Bengali channel for distribution in India, South East Asia and other markets within the Bengali diaspora. In India at least, the Sun-Astro combine will face stiff competition in a market that already has five channels fighting for viewer attention --- ntional broadcaster Doordarshan's DD Bangla, ETV bangla, Alpha Bangla, Tara Bangla and ATN.

The cooperation shall also include a Tamil language channel to be developed by the JV exclusively for distribution on the Astro Direct-To-Home satellite multi-channel television platform in Malaysia and other South East Asian markets, adds the release.

Astro chairman Dato' Haji Badri bin Haji Masri has been quoted in the release as saying, "We are very excited with the opportunities provided by this collaboration. This partnership presents us with an excellent channel for the exchange of cultural and intellectual assets between India and Malaysia. We look forward to contribute in creating and aggregating Indian-language original programmes and help promote the export of Indian creative assets globally."

Sun Network chairman and MD Kalanithi Maran said: "We believe that this association between Sun TV & Astro presents a unique opportunity to leverage the strengths of two major media players of the region. This venture will help to better address the needs of television viewers of various Indian languages worldwide."

An indication of how significant the deal is as far as Malaysia is concerned can be gauged from the fact that the signing ceremony was witnessed by Malaysian Prime Minister Yab Dato' Seri Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi.

Sun TV content reaches more than 100 million Indian-speaking viewers, covering Asia, North America, Europe, Middle East, North Africa and recently, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, the release informs. Astro is a cross-media operator specialising in the origination, aggregation and distribution of content across multiple platforms. It is the sole provider of Direct-To-Home satellite multi-channel television services in Malaysia, and houses television program production facilities as well.

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