Television

WWIL lines up Rs 2 billion debt, rebrands digital cable as Galaxzee

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MUMBAI: Zee Network's Wire & Wireless India Ltd. (WWIL) is in the process of lining up a debt of Rs 2 billion for funding its digital initiatives and acquisition of cable operators.

"We have already got Rs 500 million from Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation (IDFC). We are already in the process of tieing up a debt of Rs 2 billion," WWIL CEO Jagjit Singh Kohli tells Indiantelevision.com.

The company plans to invest Rs 7.40 billion over two years and Rs 8.50 billion within five years. "The debt to equity ratio will be firmed up once we know the price it quotes after getting listed in the exchange by February-March 2007. That in a way will determine how much debt component we will require to raise," Kohli says.

The company is in talks with strategic and financial investors but conclusive agreement will take place only after the listing. "We are not necessarily looking at a strategic investor. We want somebody who will give us the maximum valuation," Kohli says.

WWIL, the de-merged entity of Zee Telefilms' cable TV business, has set an ambitious target of ramping up its direct subsciber base to 9.6 million within five years. "We expect 7.6 million to receive digital cable. Our aim is to have 4.4 million through our own digital cable service and an additional 3.2 million through our Headend-In-The-Sky (HITS) platform. We will have two million through analogue acquisitions," says Kohli.

WWIL claims to have added 250,000 subscribers in recent months through aggressive acquisitions. The multi-system operator (MSO) has also expanded operations from 35 to 43 cities. "We plan to be in 66 cities in three years," Kohli says.

WWIL will deploy several models of set-top boxes (STBs) aimed at various subscribers. Apart from the basic box, it plans to introduce a STB which will enable internet facilities on TV. "Customers can enjoy interactive games and online share trading through this. We are looking at a monthly fee of Rs 70 for internet and Rs 75-100 for movie-on-demand. Subscribers will have to pay Rs 1499 as deposit and Rs 45 as monthly rent. We haven't, though, arrived at the final pricing. We plan to introduce these boxes after two months," says Kohli.

The basic STB is available on a refundable deposit of Rs 250 and rent of Rs 45 per month or a refundable deposit of Rs 999 with a monthly rent of Rs 30.

WWIL will also deploy a STB through which it can offer VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) sometime in April, according to Kohli. The MSO is also poised to offer HITS which will enable it to tap cable operators at a national level even in places where WWIL has no presence, he adds.

GalaxZee will be the brand under which WWIL will offer its digital cable service. "We have commissioned a digital headend two days back at Worli. We will be in the Cas (conditional access system) notified area of south Mumbai and several operators from rival MSOs are joining us," Kohli says.

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