Chernin visit boosts buzz that News Corp exploring film prodn. in India

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: The $ 24 billion News Corporation COO, Peter Chernin, came, saw and will be going back from India more or less satisfied.

On a short visit to India, as part of his Asia tour, Chernin arrived in Mumbai on Thursday to have a first hand look at Stars Indian ops and met up with industry representatives, including joint venture partners, and advertisers.

The News Corp No. 2 is slated to fly out of India tomorrow. He was accompanied on his India visit by Star Group CEO, Michelle Gutherie.

News pan-Asian venture ,Star, is on a strong financial wicket fuelled essentially by revenue growth from India.

According to information available with, the News Corp top honcho, considered to be only next to chairman, Rupert Murdoch, in the company, yesterday exchanged notes with some top Indian film producers too.

Its reported that Chernin met up with top people from Balaji, Stars content partner, yesterday. Star holds 26 per cent stake in the production company that has given the network the bulk of its television hits.

Though Star is tightlipped on such meetings, industry observers indicated that the meeting with film producers is certainly interesting; indicating that News Corp company ,20th Century Fox, might explore getting into movie production in India, either independently or in association with local companies.

20th Century Fox, producers of blockbusters like Independence Day and Titanic, which shuttered its distribution arm in India early this year, had previously never forayed into film production here.

"During the quarter, we launched and heavily promoted a new weekend lineup on Star Plus, including several new and higher costing shows, News Corps chief financial officer, David DeVoe, was quoted by MPA as saying.Ratings from KBC2 have been very strong, giving us the confidence that Star will deliver sizable profit growth for this fiscal year (FY ending June 2006),"he added.

News Corps Q1 FY 2006 (September 2006 quarter) earnings, reported 11 November, has shown 19 per cent Y/Y growth in operating income to $ 909 million, driven by reduced losses at satellite pay TV platform Sky Italia and continued growth from the companys film and cable businesses, including India.News Corporation had total assets as of approximately $ 55 billion and total annual revenues of approximately $ 24 billion 30 June, 2005.

Star Groups turnover for the period grew by 22 per cent Y/Y, driven primarily by advertising revenue at Star Plus and by higher subscription revenues from new channel offerings in India and international distribution of several Star channels, the Hong Kong-based Media Partners Asia has stated in its latest newsletter.

Other joint venture partners of News Corp in India include the Kolkata-based ABP group, controlled by the Sarkar family, and the Tatas, with whom theres a JV for a proposed DTH service in India.

News Corporation is a diversified international media and entertainment company with operations in eight industry segments: filmed entertainment; television; cable network programming; direct broadcast satellite television; magazines and inserts; newspapers; book publishing; and other. The activities of News Corporation are conducted principally in the United States, Continental Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, Asia and the Pacific Basin.

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