Zee Telefilms mulls an entry into China

MUMBAI: Foreign media companies seem to have hit a wall when it comes to China. Star Group, for example, continues to bleed in that market despite pumping in big money for years. This, however, has not stopped global firms from eyeing a slice of the cake that a 1.3 billion population promises.

Subhash Chandra is the latest media baron willing to throw his hat in the ring. Zee Telefilms Ltd. (ZTL) is planning to enter China, the toughest market to crack with its tight controls on foreign media.

"We will be entering that market. We have not yet applied for the landing rights. It will take time and we expect it to happen sometime towards the end of this fiscal," says Essel Group chief executive officer of corporate strategy Rajiv Garg.

Though Zee plans to have a presence in China in the broadcasting space, it has not yet finalised on what content and channel it should set up to lure viewers. ZTL chairman Chandra recently said Zee would launch a dubbed movie channel in Russia.

ZTL also plans to launch in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Indonesia to expand its international operations which account for almost one-fourth of the company's revenues. Running businesses which have matured in the UK and US, Zee's strategy is to launch dedicated channels in certain markets which it has identified. The company has stitched a deal with Malaysia's multi-channel pay TV operator Astro to create a channel with Hindi content drawn from Zee TV, Zee Cinema, Zee Music and Trendz for the Indonesian, Malaysian and Brunei audiences. For tapping youth audiences in the Arab region, Zee also has launched Zee Arabiya, a music and lifestyle channel.

Global media companies like News Corp, Time Warner and Viacom see China as a fertile revenue market in the long term, though it is currently spoilt by heavy-handed regulation on foreign media.

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