Balle Balle channel to launch in US

NEW DELHI: Tapping the overseas market has become the mantra of Indian broadcasters. The latest to join the bandwagon is Punjabi music channel Balle Balle which is planning to launch in US this January.

"It is a matter of great pride that we are hitting the US shores just four years after our launch in India," says Balle Balle president and CEO Upinder Nayar.

STV Enterprises Ltd, the company which runs Balle Balle, has signed a contract this month with the US-based company Global VC Inc.'s Jus Punjabi TV Network, to launch Balle Balle there from the middle of January."The first stage will see Balle Balle being aired on cable network to reach an estimated one million households across the US, barring parts of the northern states," Nayar said.

The phase two of the channel's US expansion will be flagged off in the second quarter of 2007 through a DTH tie-up that will make Balle Balle accessible all across North America, with an estimated 20 million households as the target, Nayar revealed.

Starting the middle of January, the channel will be seen in New York, New Jersey, Manhattan, Washington and almost all the major cities of the country, barring northern ones.

There are four major cable operators in the US and Balle Balle's American partners are working out projects with them, Nayar said.

He stressed that the financial scale of the operation could not be revealed now because of contractual obligations.

"I can tell you this much, however, it is big enough to plan our revenue model on the strategy that we will plough back the entire revenue generated from there into the US operation, till we achieve 100 per cent target reach."

There will obviously be revenue sharing at all levels with the US partner, and the plan and models for the DTH operation coming up are still being worked out.

Nayar said that throughout the year there will be promotional activities with live events across the country, as also talent contests and local Punjabi musicians would be picked up for actual programming in Balle Balle.

The campaign, which will see various levels of promos, including the live events, will start with New York and New Jersey, where there is maximum number of Punjabi domination.

"But this is a misnomer, really. Because our viewership is not restricted to Punjabis at all. Our surveys show that Punjabi music has become a major craze in the US, with Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, even Sri Lankans getting into the swing of Balle Balle. Besides, 30 per cent of our programming is in Hindi, which makes it an additional draw," Nayar claimed.

The live events will be spaced out and across many cities. Besides, there will be other promos involving stores and restaurants, "but our partners and we are still working on them", Nayar said.

The company believes that with Bollywood going global, this channel would be an additional benefit for both the film and music industries and that would mean additional revenue for Balle Balle.

"Besides, there are many medium and small companies who are looking for vehicles for their promotions abroad and our channel would become a big attraction for them," said a senior manager of the company.

What made Balle Balle decide to launch in the US? "Punjabi music and food is a rage in the US," Nayar said.

The campaign will pick up during the summer months in the US, when there are school holidays, the time when most of the big Punjabi jamborees are held, Nayar said, including music fests.

Balle Balle channel is already available on IPTV globally for the past six months through the site, and results for Balle Balle's last three months are expected shortly.

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