Rs 1 billion investment for UTV's channel for young

MUMBAI: A 24-hour Hindi channel for the young will be launched by software production house UTV between July and September this year.


UTV has floated a new company to launch the children's channel, United Home Entertainment Limited and has earmarked a total investment of Rs 1 billion for the venture. Part of this investment will come from the founders of UTV while part will be privately placed. UTV is actively looking at strategic alliances for the channel, including a distribution platform for the new channel, says UTV new ventures COO Purnendu Bose.

While UTV has been toying with the idea of a children's channel for the last one year, the concept was recently firmed up, taking into account the vast gap that existed for programming for children in the country, says Bose. Also, the rising strength of pester power combined with the fact that a third of the country's population is now under 15, has bolstered UTV's plans to go ahead with the channel by 2004-end.

While UTV's own software as also UTV Toons' will be tapped for use on the new channel, Bose is also speaking to other production houses in the country to develop original ideas for the channel, which he says will be the first 'desi' channel with 24 hours of localised content, adapted to the needs of Indian children.

The entry of Cartoon Network sibling Pogo, the proposed Animax feeds and the continuing threat of a Disney channel entry could also have fuelled UTV's hurry to go ahead with a children's channel, although the implementation of conditional access remains an uncertainty. Bose however, feels that more channels in the children's programming space will only help to expand a hitherto untapped market. Pointing to the 20 children's channels in the UK that cater to 11 million kids, Bose says there is no reason why the first desi channel for kids in India (Splash from the Pentamedia stable notwithstanding) should not be able to find its audience.

The new UTV channel will target four to 18-year-olds, but Bose says the production major is still debating whether or not to target the fickle 15 to 18-year-olds. Time bands could be divided by different target groups - like the four to seven-year-olds, the eight to 12-year-old boys, similar aged girls, and 12 to 14-year-old girls and similar aged boys. The commercial success of children's programming on kids' channels like Cartoon Network, which now sport ads for products usually used by adults and a growing incidence of multi-TV set households will help the new channel thrive, believes Bose.

UTV has shortlisted around five names for the proposed channel, but Bose says a final decision will be taken only next week.

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