After US, Bahl's international channel UK-bound

MUMBAI: English language infotainment channel South Asia World (SAW), floated by Television Eighteen promoter Raghav Bahl late last year in the US, is all set to make its debut in the UK as well in association with Zee Telefilms.

The channel is primarily targeted to South Asian community in the region. SAW provides news and views from India and the subcontinent. Its programming also includes local coverage of the South Asian community within the United States and the UK. The UK debut for SAW is likely to be within this quarter (January-March).

Confirming the developments to a source at SAW Holdings Ltd, which owns and manages SAW, said ?negotiations for a distribution pact for the UK market are at an advanced stage with Zee Telefilms."

SAW will be the fifth pay channel in the Zee bouquet along with Zee TV, Zee Cinema, Zee Music (free to air) and Alpha Punjabi. On the Rupert Murdoch-controlled BskyB digital platform Zee TV and Zee Cinema cost ?12.99, while as part of this package Alpha Punjabi costs ? 5.99. Alpha Punjabi as a stand alone costs ? 9.99. Zee's subscriber base in the UK is in the region of 172,000.

SAW is being implemented through a new company, India World Network USA Inc, that has been floated by Bahl and which will own and manage SAW. This entity will have an operational arrangement with TV-18. The broadcasting experience and management skills of it will be utilised to run the new channel. TV-18 runs and manages the business channel CNBC-TV18 in India in association with CNBC Asia.

The distribution deal with Zee Network envisages SAW being bundled and distributed along with the former?s bouquet of channels in the UK. The reason: Zee has the largest presence in the UK amongst Indian-origin channels.

Although there is no confirmation about the financial details, a typical distribution deal would have a revenue sharing component in the ratio of 60:40 or 70:30 in favour of the broadcaster. The SAW-Zee agreement is also likely to be in this region only.

In the US, SAW airs exclusively on the Dish Network, owned by Echostar- a rival of the Murdoch controlled Direct TV platform. It is available on an "a la carte" basis for $4.99 per month, while consumers opting for annual subscription are being given one month free of charge.

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