Zee Telefilms plans to launch religious channel - Jaagaran- this month

NEW DELHI: The Subhash Chandra-promoted Zee Telefilms is at it again. And this time it wants to add a religious channel to the stable.

The proposed religious channel, to be called Jaagaran, is slated for a launch some time this month via Asiasat 3S and INSAT satellites. The stable already boasts of about 15 channel brands, including the ones that are part of the DTH package.

Confirming to Zee Tele vice-chairman Jawahar Goel said, "We had some spare transponder capacity and lot of religion-related material in our library. So, we thought that we should start a religion-oriented channel."

At the moment, a host of religious channels received in Indian cable homes include Aastha, Sanskar, CMM, ETC (partly showing live Gurbani from the Golden temple in Amritsar) and an English channel- Miraclenet beamed from abroad.

Jaagaran (in Hindi it means to be awakened to the truth), however, would be slightly different from the others of its ilk in the sense that apart from religious discourses, it would also have religious serials (may be like Ramayan) and movies.

There is no dearth of religious movies and TV serials in India. Several such serials have had a great inning on various TV networks, including Doordarshan, Sony and Star. The series have kept the nation hooked on to mythology and tales from the ancient Indian scriptures and epics.

Zee Tele is open to commissioning new religious serials for its proposed channel as also buying stuff off the shelf wherever available.

Whether the channel would be started in a pay mode or as a digital free to air is still not clear as Zee Telefilms is not revealing the final script.

But what becomes evident is that Zee is preparing itself with all genres of channels and trying to be ready for a regime when conditional access becomes a reality and niche channel would have their own place in such on-demand scenario. DTH is certainly one such scenario, but at the moment Zee and ASC Enterprise combine's DTH package cannot take more than 48 channels, which it already has.

Religious channels are slowly but surely creating their small spaces under the advertising sun. Quite a few advertisers, like manufacturers of herbal tea and incense sticks, have started buying airtime on religious channels whose rates are low if compared to even news channels or regional music channels.

The Zee scrip, which has been dancing to the bull tune that is playing out in the Indian stock markets, was quoting at Rs 159.90 on the Bombay Stock Exchange at 14.52 hours, signifying a 3.16 per cent gain over the last closing. On the National Stock Exchange, the scrip was being quoted at Rs 159.70 at 15.05 hours today.

Of late, the scrip has been northward bound on reports of subscription revenue from its pay channels increasing by the time the company closes the financial year on 31 March. This had also been aided with media reports suggesting that conditional access system would finally become a reality in true sense, starting off from South Delhi.

So, additions to the Zee family of channels would always make sense as long as the company doesn't splurge money on its niche new ventures, a Delhi-based capital markets experts said.

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