Star Group Q3 revenue up 14% to $123 mn

NEW DELHI: The Rupert Murdoch-controlled News Corp.'s pan-Asian venture, Star Group, operating income grew 28 per cent year-on-year to reach almost $30 million, propelled by ad revenue growth largely emanating from India.

While the Hong Kong-based Star Group turnover grew 14 per cent to reach $123 million for the third quarter ended march 2006, parent News Corp. continued to maintain strong operating momentum with its Q3 FY 06 (March 2006 quarter) result with an increase in operating income to $889 million.

According to the Hong Kong-based media research firm Media Partners Asia (MPA), Star Group's Indian operations grew on the back of weekend programming initiatives at Star Plus and Star One.

However, MPA states that Star's revenue growth of 14 per cent in Q3 was below previous quarters (20 per cent - 30 per cent in Q1 and Q2) due to an earlier-than-expected-closure on Star Plus of the second season of the Amitabh Bachchan-hosted Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), which is an Indianised version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

KBC had to be taken off the air earlier this year after its star host, Bachchan, fell ill midway into the second season and expressed his inability to continue shooting for the television programme, which was showing signs of capturing the fancy of the nation once again.

For nine-month FY 06, Star Group's turnover tracked up 22 per cent to approximately $400 million, while operating income climbed 16 per cent $86 million with margins down a notch to 22 per cent (versus 23 per cent in 9M FY 05) due to higher investments in programming, marketing and distribution largely in India.

MPA forecasts indicate that Star could see $141 million in operating income by the end of the present financial year in June 2006 with total revenue at $551 mil. (+24 per cent Y/Y).

Going forward, Star will be heavily focused on its July 2006 launch of DTH services in India via its 20 per cent-owned $500 million joint venture with the Tatas (80 per cent shareholder) along with a ramp up of programming at its 20 per cent-owned Indonesian terrestrial broadcaster ANTV.

Tata Sky aims to add up to one million pay-TV subs per annum as it looks to drive digital-led addressability in the Indian market.

As of March 2006, India's first DTH pay-TV provider Dish TV (owned by Zee Telefilms boss Subhash Chandra) had close to a million subscribers.

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