Three news channels likely to launch in November

MUMBAI: A fleet of news channels are set for launch in November, putting further pressure on an already crowded cable pipeline.

Sources say Times Now, a joint venture between Times Global Broadcasting Pvt Ltd and Reuters, is aiming to beam from 9 November. No official confirmation, however, was forthcoming on the date of launch. Said Times Global Broadcasting VP and business head Partho Das Gupta, "The date has not been finalized yet. But we are targeting to launch in November."

Next up will be iBN, the Rajdeep Sardesai and Sameer Manchanda joint venture with TV18, which is targeting a 19 November launch. Broadcast News editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai says the launch is on course. "As I have always stated, the launch of the iBN will be somewhere in the last quarter of this calendar year. We are sticking to it."

If this is going to set up the big stage battle among the biggies, Markand Adhikari is attempting to carve a niche space in the news segment with the launch of a "views" channel titled Janmat. The channel's test signals are on. Says Sri Adhikari Brothers vice-chairman Markhand Adhikari, "The channel will be launched by the end of October or first week of November."

Waiting in the wings are also India TV's Gujarati news channel and NDTV Nation, a metro-centric channel. While the industry buzz indicated November as the launch date of NDTV Nation, a company source says it is put on hold. NDTV was not willing to disclose the exact date of launch. "No firm decision has yet been taken on the launch of NDTV Nation at the moment," says an official spokesperson.

There is one thing that is dead certain for these new channels: a significant amount will go by way of carriage fees for proper placement of these channels. Industry estimates put the distribution cost for a news channel at somewhere around Rs 100-120 million.

The news channels are still in the process of sewing up deals with most of the cable operators. Admits Das Gupta: "Negotiations are on for channel placement." Same is the case with iBN which wants to get colour or S-band carriage. Leading multi system operators say iBN's proposals are under discussion. "We have made earlier commitments with other channels. We will have to see how we can dislodge some of them who do not stick to their terms. Alternately, the commercial terms of some other channels may be ending. We can open up these slots for the new channels. We expect carriage fee rates to go up substantially," a senior executive of a leading MSO said.

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