Television

GBN, Jagran explore JV for Channel 7

MUMBAI: In what is an indication of the consolidation that might soon happen in the news space in Indian television, two TV news stations are in active talks to explore synergies between themselves.

Global Broadcast Network, owners of English news channel CNN IBN, is in talks with Jagran TV, parent company of Channel7, aimed at making the Hindi news channel a part of the GBN stable through a joint venture.

According to sources close to the negotiations, talks are being held between Jagran TV and GBN for a deal wherein the management of Channel7 would lie with GBN’s promoters through an equal joint venture.

GBN is promoted by a clutch of professionals like Rajdeep Sardesai, Sameer Manchanda and Haresh Chawla along with Television Eighteen promoted by Raghav Bahl.

The talks entail Channel7, which launched in March 2005, becoming a part of the Television Eighteen Group’s bouquet of channels that include CNBC TV18, Awaaz and just-launched English language CNN IBN.

Though the sources pointed out that initial talks might not fructify into a joint venture, the aim is to explore whether existing resources can be combined. Especially when Channel7 is a stand alone news channel in a space that has strong competition from the likes of Aaj Tak, NDTV India, Star News and Zee News.

Information available with Indiantelevision.com indicates that GBN would like to have management and editorial control of Channel7, as well as responsibilities of selling ad space and marketing.

As and when the deal goes through, if at all it finally happens, this could mean that GBN will have to absorb the existing manpower in Channel7, while getting control over the editorial content. The issue of the Channel7 brand name is still being discussed.

At the time of starting, GBN had stated that it was looking at a slew of channels, including those in Indian languages.

Jagran TV director Siddhartha Gupta told indiantelevision.com, "All these reports are baseless rumours. There is nothing of this sort happening." Still, Jagran Prakashan Limited CFO R K Agarwal said, "We are in talks but nothing has been finalised as yet."

Television Eighteen, the majority shareholder in GBN, said it’s “against company policy to comment on market speculations.”

Jagran TV, part of the Jagran group that publishes the Dainik Jagran newspaper with over 2 million circulation, has said it invested close to Rs 700 million in the television venture.

However, what can be a stumbling block in the deal going through is the foreign investment component in both Jagran TV and GBN’s major share holder Television Eighteen, which is almost close to the cap stipulated by the government.

Last year Jagran TV offloaded 25.7 per cent equity stake to the Mauritius based New Vernon Bharat Ltd.

Indian government norms for news channels state that channels uplinking from the country cannot have more than 26 per cent foreign investment, which includes foreign financial investors.

Time Warner had inked a co-branding partnership with the TV18 group for the English news channel CNN IBN in 2005, which is publicized as a service of Time Warner and TV 18.

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