Zee UK to launch Alpha Gujarati early '05

MUMBAI: Zee Network UK is planning to add a fifth channel to its bouquet early next year. The long in offing Alpha Gujarati will cater to the sizable Gujarati community in the UK.

Channel officials hope that by bringing over Alpha Gujarati from India, it will serve to further grow its subscriber base.

Zee's subscriber base in the UK comprises 166,000 households and the overall international revenue has seen an increase of 44 per cent.

With the addition of a fifth channel to its bouquet, Zee network could be then deemed as the biggest Asian TV network in the UK. Currently the network includes the flagship Zee TV, Zee Cinema, Zee Music and Alpha ETC Punjabi.

The new channel, coming from the network's Alpha brand, will become the second regional language channel to be added as part of Zee TV's European operations since the launch of Alpha Punjabi in August 2002. Alpha Gujarati is often touted as one of India's most watched Gujarati channels.

The new business head of Zee's UK and European operations, Subroto Bhattacharya, has been quoted in media reports as saying, "The way I look at it, the UK is a very mature market. The Hindi speaking population is coming to a saturation point. Our growth is going to come from adding local flavour, just like what we did in India."

"We introduced Alpha Punjabi [in the UK] and it has done an extremely good job for us. We introduced it into Europe and also saw tremendous success there," he added.

The move, according to the reports, was aimed to target the biggest section of the Asian population in the UK, along with the Punjabis --- the Gujarati speaking population.

One thing that the network has made clear is that Alpha Gujarati will not be operating as a general entertainment channel like Zee TV or Zee Cinema. The aim of the channel is to provide Gujarathis their own local flavour, as well as local news from their state.

While the reports dismiss likelihood other two regional channels Marathi and Bengali, currently operational in India, to be brought over in the foreseeable future, the move despite the saturation of the Asian channels in the UK is touted as a smart move.

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