Zee-Turner puts Rs 25 price tag on HBO

MUMBAI: Hollywood movie channel HBO will be priced at Rs 25 per subscriber per month when it migrates to the Zee-Turner bouquet from the One Alliance platform in the New Year.

The new price will be effective from 1 January, 2005. In the Sony-Discovery bouquet, HBO was effectively priced at Rs 7 a month, according to industry sources.

The channel will also be available as part of a new package, to be announced shortly by Zee-Turner. "We are in the process of creating new packages to suit the demographic and psychographic requirements of customers. We will be announcing the composition of these packages shortly, which will also include HBO. We will also be announcing the distribution margin for our cable affiliates then," says Zee-Turner chief executive officer Siddharth Jain.

According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recommendations, new channels can't be bundled along with the existing bouquet. With HBO moving in now, Zee-Turner plans to introduce new bouquet packages. Recently, it announced the price of kids channel Pogo at Rs 10, but allowed a monthly distribution margin of Rs 4 per subscriber to cable operators.

Reacting to the new price announcement, Sony-Discovery president Shantanu Aditya tells "If the price of HBO is going to be Rs 25, that is almost 500 per cent increase from its current rate. That would seem to us like a violation in the Trai regulation."

Jain, however, dismisses such charges. "Sony-Discovery had registered a standalone rate of Rs 24 for HBO. We are permitted a seven per cent price increase by Trai. Besides, we are working out a bundled price for our new packages," he says.

The standalone price of HBO is deliberately kept high so that Zee can push other channels in its package, analysts say. The strategy will be to use HBO as a driver in the new bouquet.

Zee-Turner also handles distribution of Zee TV, Zee Cinema, Zee News, Zee English, Trendz, Cartoon Network, POGO, CNN and CNBC as well as a number of regional Alpha channels. The joint venture distribution company between Zee Telefilms and Turner International has a countrywide network of over 400 dealers.

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