TV9 targets September-October launch of Kannada news channel

MUMBAI: TV9, the Hyderabad-based media firm promoted by venture fund i-Labs Associated Fund and Chennai-based Unify Wealth Management, is all set to enter the Kannada market with a news channel. TV9 Kannada is aimed at a September-October launch.

"TV9 is all set to launch its news channel in the Kannada market. We are tentatively targeting a launch date within the September-October period. The dry run is already on," says TV9 Kannada director Mahendra Mishra. TV9 already runs TV9 Telugu, a news channel in the Telugu language.

TV9 Kannada will be joining Sun Network's Udaya News, the only other news channel in the market. And the timing of the launch will be very crucial for the channel, since the Rs 2 billion market is also awaiting the launch of Kannada Kasturi, the infotainment channel promoted by the Bangalore-based Kasturi Media Pvt Ltd (KMPL). Kannada Kasturi is targeting a November launch.

TV9 Kannada will be following a 'market expansion strategy' rather than setting up head-on collision situations with the rival channels. "Our plan is to expand the market further. We are looking at building a new market. News as a genre in Kannada hasn't been really explored by the existing players as yet. Our effort will be to fill this vacuum with a very different kind of programming," Mishra says.

TV9 is projecting the Kannada channel as "Kannada's national channel". "The plan is to give Kannadigas a national channel, which speaks their language. We will be raising the bar in Karnataka, by bringing in the national standards and quality of news coverage and presentation. Our focus will be on local-oriented news, but the packaging will be completely of national standards," Mishra explains the strategy.

The free-to-air channel will have the retail advertiser segment playing a crucial role in its plans, Mishra adds. "Retail advertising is a huge area of activity in Karnataka. It is really booming and we will be exploring this segment to the fullest."

The otherwise sleepy Kannada television market is expected to witness a lot of action this year with the entry of TV9 Kannada and Kannada Kasturi. The proceedings have already been kicked off by Zee Telefilms, which launched its entertainment channel Zee Kannada in May this year.

Says Zee Kannada business head Venkat Giridhar on the key learnings the channel had in this three-month period: "Unlike any other South market, Kannada is open to all the other languages, whether it is Hindi, English, Tamil or Malayalam. Hence, it is kind of a complicate market for a new entrant. Our effort has been to educate the viewer on genres other than films and soaps. We are going ahead with our plans and will be launching a lot of new programmes which would fit into categories such as talent hunts and reality shows in the coming days."

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