Cable TV

Astro likely to pick up 26 % stake in Hungama TV

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MUMBAI: It looks like marriage season in the Indian broadcast sector. Close on the heels of Jagran's Channel7 getting into an investment deal with Global Broadcast Network, India's home grown kids channel too seems to have found a suitable partner.

UTV Software Communications-controlled Hungama TV appears to have found a strategic partner in Astro, Malaysia's largest DTH and pay TV operator. Kiddie channel Hungama TV has been scouting for an investor cum partner for some time now.

According to people close to the deal-making, Astro is likely to pick up a minority stake of up to 26 per cent in the one-and-a-half year-old Hungama TV.

Hungama TV, according to merchant banking sources, has been valued at between Rs 3 billion to Rs 4 billion.

Contacted by Indiantelevision.com today, promoter Ronnie Screwvala of the publicly-traded UTV refused comment, dubbing the information as market speculation.

Though sources close to the deal admitted to the talks being in the final stages of formalisation, they clarified that because of the regulatory environment and the sensitivity involved in such marriages, the deal might take some time to be announced, if it goes through.

As reported by Indiantelevision.com last year, Hungama TV has been holding talks to rope in a strategic investor, shelving its earlier plans to get in a purely equity partner.

"With no pressure on raising funds, we are looking at an investor who would add strategic value. We have initiated discussions. The investor could either be a broadcaster or a content company engaged in kids programming," UTV Software Communications director, operations and finance, Ronald D'Mello had been quoted earlier as stating.

For the record, it is worth noting that UTV and Astro already have a working relationship in place. Last year, UTV had announced a joint venture with Astro to launch two kids' channels in South East Asia, targeting the age bracket of 4-14 years. The proposed channels will be on the Astro DTH platform across Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore.

According to earlier announcements, Astro was said to be making the entire capital investment for the launch of the two kids' channels.

Astro's presence in India includes interests in FM radio ventures. Recently, Astro, along with the infotech company Value Labs and the Prannoy Roy promoted NDTV, had joined hands to buy out the operations of Living Media Group-controlled Radio Today in three cities.

The company had earlier entered into a $ 25 million (Rs 1125 million) joint venture with Chennai based broadcast powerhouse Sun TV. Both parties aim to collaborate in content creation for filmed and other entertainment products in Indian languages including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi and Bengali for distribution to international markets. The agreement also proposes to launch a Bengali channel for distribution in India, South East Asia and other markets within the Bengali diaspora.

UTV scrip opened at Rs 171.45 on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and closed for the day at Rs 180.

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