Pehla 'Navratna' bouquet expected in March

MUMBAI: Dubai-based Arab Digital Distribution (ADD) is planning to launch its Pehla Navratna bouquet of nine South Indian channels in March.

The Direct to Home (DTH) platform provider has already roped in Malayalam general entertainment channels Asianet and Kairali, Tamil GEC Jaya TV and South Indian music channel Southern Spice Music. Sources say Malayalam news channel Indiavision is on the verge of signing the deal.

When contacted, Pehla didn't confirm the March launch. "A final decision will be taken soon," a spokesperson said.

"The channels we have signed are already available in the Pehla bouquet. These channels will be clubbed together to form the Navratna bouquet," the spokesperson added.

By assembling together the bouquet of nine channels under the Pehla DTH service, targeted at audience in the Middle East region, ADD attempts to find new subscribers and block any DTH service provider from tapping this growing segment.

The Pehla formula is suiting the South Indian channels. The Middle East has a large South Indian and Sri Lankan population whose entertainment needs these channels can service. Also, they can earn incremental revenues by joining the platform of the main DTH service provider in the region.

Asianet will be available in both the existing and the new package, a company source confirmed. The Malayalam channel is paid a fixed rate irrespective of its subscriber base and has an annual contract with Pehla.

SS Music, which has music content in all the four south Indian languages of Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada, has already signed up with Pehla. Tamil language general entertainment channel Jaya TV would also feature as part of the bouquet.

Sun Network, however, is likely to stay out of Pehla. All the more reason for Pehla to align and bring together the Navratna bouquet. The Middle East region is fast becoming a cluttered market with just 50 per cent of the population under the addressable system. Other DTH players like Orbit and Showtime are competing with Pehla in this fragmented market.

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