Raj TV plans business news channels in southern languages

MUMBAI: The regional news channel space is set for segmentation. Hoping to enter a genre untapped by broadcasters in the southern region, Raj Television Network (RTN) is planning to launch business news channels in the four languages of Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam.

"The board has given a nod and we are in the process of applying for licenses. We want to launch business news channels in the southern languages," says Raj Television Network director M Raveendran.

The first of the sibling channels to come out would be in the Tamil language. RTN, which raised Rs 917.4 million through an initial public offering (IPO) early this year, already operates Raj TV and Raj Digital Plus.

Kalanithi Maran's Sun TV Ltd, which is the dominant player in the southern region, has a string of news channels but none in the pure business segment. The view taken so far by broadcasters is that the market has not matured for a niche segment news channel in the southern languages.

Raj TV is also planning to step outside the southern region. The company is evaluating the feasibility of youth and current affairs channels in Marathi and Gujarati languages.

Outside the news space, Raj TV plans to launch a kids channel in Tamil. "The board has approved the proposal for launching 12 channels. This includes a toons channel to cater to the kids," says Raveendran.

Rival Sun TV is launching a kids channel with an investment outlay of Rs 400 million this year. Sports and documentary channels are also slated for launch this fiscal.

Raj TV is planning to launch a youth-centric multi-lingual channel aimed at the 14-40 age group, for which it has earmarked Rs 107 million from its IPO proceeds. "We are launching this channel in June," says Raveendran.

Regional broadcasters are expanding their presence and making forays into new geographies. Such growth stories are pulling valuations up as private equity funds are sensing worth in regional media companies. The Blackstone group, a global private investment firm, has plunked down $275 million for a 26 per cent stake in Ushodaya Enterprises Ltd (UEL), which owns the Eenadu newspaper and ETV group of regional channels. Hyderabad-based TV9 is planning to launch news channels for Mumbai, Gujarat and National Capital Region (NCR) territories and is in talks with two funds to raise Rs 2.5 billion.

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