DTH

Geo TV eyes UK market; sceptical about India

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MUMBAI: Dubai headquartered Geo TV, the flagship channel from the Pakistan-based Jang group of media companies, has now decided to spread it wings and is eyeing the UK market, while firm in the belief that India is not yet ready for it.

As part of the expansion plans, Geo TV is also mulling having an additional channel, Geo TV-Entertainment, in Pakistan. The existing channel, Geo TV, transforms into a news channel there. The Jang group has also applied for a DTH licence in Pakistan.

According to a senior executive of Geo TV present at the Ficci-Frames, the next destination for the infotainment channel is the UK, where negotiations are on with the Rupert Murdoch-controlled BSkyB platform.

Though no time frame was enlisted by Geo TV for the UK debut, it is part of a game plan to have a footprint in markets where there is sizeable South Asian population, especially people of Pakistani origin.

In the US, the infotainment channel, which made its debut there last year on the EchoStar platform, beams into approximately 35,000 homes there targeting primarily South Asian viewers. Future target is to reach 50,000 homes.

Asked about Geo TV's Indian plans, the company executive said that though an entertainment channel is being planned for the South Asian region, where the aim would be to exploit the Indian market more, the present regulatory regime in India would not make it commercially viable.

"A major part of our revenue comes from subscription and in the absence of any firm regulatory mechanism to this effect (read conditional access system), the Indian market looks a bit nebulous to enter into at present," the executive said.

However, Geo TV is available in quite a few Indian cable homes and, at one time, the channel was looking at having distribution tie-ups with cable ops and MSOs here.

Explaining the difficulties in making an Indian foray, the Geo TV executive said that the channel has been on air without advertisements since inception, depending on subscription revenue. "In India, the mechanism for accounting the subscription revenue is still hazy and, hence, we would not like to make an Indian debut so soon," the executive said.

Having an Indian presence would make eminent sense for the channel as several Indian television actors are increasingly being employed by Geo for their soaps and serials. Artistes like Sangeeta Ghosh, Aamna Shariff and Vikas Bhalla have been signed for serials on Geo.

As a stand alone channel in the US, it is priced at $ 15 per subscriber per month, while the target is to price the channel at £ 15 in the UK when it makes an entry there.

For UK the programming would be on the lines of the US feed and the effort will be to have localised content to cater to the South Asian viewers. The channel would also beam dramas, among other entertainment fare.

Geo TV airs programmes partly in Urdu and in English in the USA and has sizeable portion of local content The channel forayed into the Middle-East last year and airs there as a free-to-air channel on the Phela bouquet.

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