SET's growth to stay flat in 2004-05

MUMBAI: Sony-Discovery's revenue growth will stay flat in 2004-05, affected by the loss of premium movie channel HBO in its distribution bouquet.

SET Discovery Pvt Ltd president Shantonu Aditya admits touching Rs 3 billion will be difficult this fiscal, but says a marginal rise is possible. The company had earned a revenue of Rs 2.85 billion in 2003-04.


Aditya says the ICC Champions trophy, the distribution of new channels and an inflation-linked rate hike of seven per cent with effect from 1 January, 2005 may result in a marginal growth.

But analysts see the loss of HBO neutralising any gain the company had made earlier in the year. Sony-Discovery bouquet's rate has to be revised downwards to Rs 49.40 in the New Year as the price of HBO was Rs 5.60 per subscriber a month. A permissible seven per cent hike will only put the bouquet rate at Rs 52.85.

Besides, Sony-Discovery bouquet will lack steam in the southern region where the main driver was HBO, the English-language movie channel. Also, in the new bouquet formation, Star India with the Disney channels and Zee-Turner with HBO will have far stronger pull than Sony's channels of MTV, Nick, Animax and Discovery Travel & Living.

"The last quarter of this fiscal will neutralise whatever growth we could post in the earlier period. We won't have HBO and we don't have any cricket left on Max," says a source in the company. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had put a freeze on subscription rates with effect from 26 December 2003. Sony also could not increase its subscriber base which could have fuelled growth in earnings for the year.

As already reported yesterday, SET Discovery has strengthened focus in the southern region by dividing it into two territories - Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh forming one division while Tamil Nadu and Kerala constitutes the other group. Each division is under a regional manager.

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