Sahara to pump in Rs 2 billion in media business

NEW DELHI: The Subrata Roy promoted Sahara group is all geared up to effect another restructuring to its media business. This time around the thrust is on launching new TV and print medium products and beefing up the distribution of its news channels.


The group is also planning to pump in an additional Rs 2 billion (Rs 200 crore) in its media business, spread over a period of 18-24 months.

Speaking to at length, Sahara India Media and Entertainment's senior vice-president Ambikanand Sahay said that the new game plan is to weed out old products that are not delivering results and start new ones with a "fresh outlook."

"In this process fresh capital would be needed and the process is on to finalise the modalities of investment, including the time period over which it would be injected," Sahay informed.

Apart from targeting launch of two news channels this month-end, including one for the Delhi region (project name is D1), Sahara is looking at starting English and Hindi language dailies from 27 cities. Niche magazines too are within the launch radar.

"We have dailies in Hindi and Urdu and weeklies in English and Hindi, but the group is looking at new launches with an aim to corner niche advertising market," Sahay said, pointing out that some existing products, like the weeklies Sahara Samay and Sahara Times, may be phased out over a period of time.

The niche magazines that are being proposed would relate to fields of politics and Parliament, health and lifestyle, sports and entertainment and business and finance.

"If plans go as scheduled, some of the new offerings from the Sahara group would see the light of the day before the end of this year," Sahay said.

As far as overhauling of the existing news channels and new ones go, the new mantra would be to have a synergy amongst editorial content, marketing and distribution.

Admitting that distribution and network development has been one of the weakest links in Sahara's media venture, Sahay explained, "Sincere attempts are being made to have a mid-course correction and tested professionals like DK Pandey (who'll head marketing and all news bureaus) and Tapas Roy (national distribution head) have been brought in from other companies to beef up the existing set up."

Without mincing words, Sahay also remarked that Sahara's distribution team had "let down" the channels in the past. The new appointments are being made with an eye on these aspects.

Pandey, for example, has worked in companies like Zee Telefilms, Siti Cable and Reliance Infocomm, while Roy has had successful stints at Star, BBC World and Siti Cable. In fact, along with the likes of Amitabh Srivastava, who now heads Disney's distribution activities in India, Roy is considered one of the top few distribution whizzes in the country.

That some sort of thinking is going on within the group to strategise for the future, gets amplified when Sahay says that 80-odd cities are being identified where the content on the respective regional channels would be tailored for "appointment viewing".

It just needs to be seen whether this time round Sahara manages to get its act right, unlike most times in the past when efforts have failed to bring desired results. For example, Sahara One entertainment channel is present on almost 80 per cent of the cable networks, but in over 60 per cent such networks, it's nowhere near prime or tuneable bandwidth. Result: fuzzy signals and irritated viewers.


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