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MUMBAI:2004 may well see the Indian launch of the US headquartered E! Networks, that operates E! Entertainment, the channel dedicated to the world of entertainment, and style., a channel devoted to the worlds of style, beauty, fashion and home design.

While E! officials say an India launch is in the offing, they are unwilling to put a date to E!'s entry in the country. But indications are that India could well figure on the list of 'important new markets where E! will launch its networks in 2004'.

Says E! Networks Asia Pacific managing director Christine Fellowes, "Since we launched internationally in 2002 India has been a top priority for us. Our senior management have visited the market a great deal and we have been talking to distribution partners in India for some time. We have great ambition for E! in India for many reasons. In addition to having the most significant market potential in the Asian region, India has a dynamic local entertainment industry and a population that is passionate about movies and celebrities."

The proposed implementation of conditional access put a spanner in the works, but matters are looking up after the issue was put in cold storage. "Since we started looking at India, the likely introduction of CAS has made it difficult to generate reliable business forecasts. We take a careful approach to business and the uncertainty surrounding CAS in the past has slowed down our plans. We are actively back in conversations and would love to launch here as soon as it makes sense to do so."

Bollywood on the E! radar -

Not surprisingly, in India there would be an opportunity for a strong connection to Bollywood and programming from here. Says Fellowes, "Hollywood and Hollywood stars....a result of the growth of multichannel TV and multiplex cinemas, the international rollout and success of Hollywood blockbusters, have driven the success of E! internationally, particularly as we capture the A,B,C audience who are most exposed to international

Mel Gibson on E! - The E! strategy is to cover the A list stars and deliver big entertainment stories

entertainment.Our programming strategy is to be relevant and topical, to cover the A-list stars and deliver the big entertainment stories. We have recently produced E! Live From The Red Carpet at the BAFTA's in London and we will continue to produce or co-produce programming for the local market where this is viable."

E! has obviously studied the Indian market well. While initially, in most markets the network relies solely on subscription revenues, it is already seeing fantastic advertising potential from Asian markets like Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia, says Fellowes. "We would also look to achieve ad sales relatively early in India, as we would expect strong penetration of the major metros, and we can offer unique and exciting integrated campaigns to advertising partners, which we know is critical here."

E! for educated, energetic, early fashion birds

The launch of E! in India should mean an ideal vehicle for advertisers of upmarket products, and a threat to niche channels targeting the young and the affluent. "Our viewers are generally 18 to 39 years old, have a higher disposable income, are educated and early adopters of new trends. This is a very attractive demographic for advertisers in all markets. E! is bold, revealing and gives viewers the inside scoop on their favourite stars and movies. Our audience skews slightly female but E! has broad appeal to anyone who is an entertainment fan," says Fellowes.

...bold, revealing and giving the inside scoop on stars and movies, that's the E! strategy "Our distribution is growing quickly. In just two years we have launched or agreed on carriage deals in many international markets including England, Germany, The Netherlands, Latin American, Ireland, Malta, Switzerland, Cyprus, Nigeria, Belgium, UAE and in the Asia Pacific region; Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea."

E!'s marketing strategies too, vary depending on the nuances of a specific market. "While we have a global brand that has universal appeal, we do believe in thinking locally when we approach a new country. Marketing strategies that we have employed successfully include entering a new market by developing strong time slots or branded blocks with signature E! programming on local TV networks. This gives us an opportunity to understand local programming preferences, helps establish and develop the brand and build audience base."

"E! Networks produce and own international rights to over 1000 hours of programming per year. We continue to place selected programming on terrestrial tv once we launch the full E! 24-hour network," she adds.

100 million and counting...

Internationally, E!'s programming can be seen in more than 120 countries worldwide, reaching over 300 million homes, says the official website. The company operates the E! International Network, a 24-hour English language global entertainment channel available via satellite in Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East, available to over seven million viewers worldwide in over 20 countries. E!, launched in June 1991, is currently available to 100 million cable and direct broadcast satellite subscribers in the US. The Style Network, launched in 2000, currently counts 33 million subscribers with commitments to reach over 40 million in 2004.

E! is 79.2 per cent owned by a joint venture between subsidiaries of Comcast Corporation and The Walt Disney Company, (Comcast, through another indirect wholly owned subsidiary, also owns a 10.4 per cent interest, while the remaining 10.4 per cent is owned by a subsidiary of Liberty Media Corporation.E!, headquartered in Los Angeles and has regional offices in London, Miami, New York, Chicago, Caracus and a regional Asia Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong. Says Fellowes, "At the moment, we offer a service that is specialy programmed for Asia in LA, so we can be mindful of cultural sensitivities and censorship restrictions."

"The channel is in English so we have focused our marketing efforts in those countries where English is the language that the urban viewer who fits our demographic profile, will enjoy hearing on TV. As the economics of a market justify, we localize through language and local programming, as we've done in the UK. India is obviously a market where we would be able to do this more quickly than in some smaller markets."

With an ad clientele that boasts names like American Express, General Electric, Kraft, Microsoft, Unilever, Ford, Revlon, Sony, Visa, Coca-Cola, L'Oreal and BMW, E! expects to attract local, regional and international clients who area looking for a star-studded television environment that will attract young, upscale spenders in the Asia Pacific. "We will also focus on creative integrated solutions for our marketing partners. E! can combine our hot brand and star power to generate striking results across multiple consumer touch points; through events, sponsorship, publicity, promotions, mobile, online and onair media," points out Fellowes.

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