|The year 2000 will be remembered
for a single show that dominated the Indian television industry and
went on to switch the fortunes of some media companies. Kaun Banega
Crorepati, the Amitabh Bachchan hosted game show based on Who Wants
to be a Millionaire, not only became the most-watched programme on
private satellite television but also catapaulted Star Plus into leadership
On the back of the success of Star Plus, Rupert Murdoch built his
media empire. If Subhash Chandra had tasted success all through
these years since Zee launched, 2000 was a turning point in Zee's
history. Chandra's dream of creating a media company that would
march into the convergence era faced severe threat and the internal
weakness of his organisation stood exposed.
It was clearly Murdoch's year. After divorcing his business from
Zee, his Star Group acquired a 26 per cent stake in the Rajan Raheja-owned
Hathway Cable & Datacom for an estimated $50-60 million. This
marked a re-entry of Murdoch into cable after selling his 50 per
cent stake in Chandra's Siticable and gave him a presence in a cable
network which had around one million subscribers.
Sony Entertainment Television, which was competing fiercely against
Zee at the time, also floundered as it came under the attack from
three Star Plus programmes - Bachchan's show which gave away prize
money of Rs 10 million, flanked by the Balaji Telefilms' produced
soaps Kyunki saas bhi kabhie bahu thi and Kahaani ghar ghar kii.
The year saw the entry of Kerry Packer's Channel Nine in a joint
venture with HFCL. The HFCL-Channel Nine JV sealed a deal with Prasar
Bharati, agreeing to pay a whopping Rs 1200-odd million for a three-hour
prime time band on the floundering DD Metro channel. This revenue
model was unsustainable, as would be proved later when Channel Nine
withdrew from renewing the contract on the same commercial terms.
DD Sports was also launched as a pay channel, trying to cash in
on the India cricket rights which Prasar Bharati bagged in a successful
bid for five years.
It was also the year that saw the birth of a Hindi news channel,
Aaj Tak, from the India Today stable. This was to later fuel a news
channel boom in the country. B4U, promoted by LN Mittal, Kishore
Lulla and Binani, was also launched during the year.
There was activity in the regional channel space. Down south, Sun
Network continued to rule supreme. Zee made a foray into regional
language broadcasting with the launch of four channels under the
Alpha brand - in Marathi, Punjabi, Gujarati and Bengali. Rathikant
Basu, ending his stint as CEO in Star India, launched the Tara group
of regional channels. ETV Network also made a foray into regional
Cable TV was getting high valuation on the back of ambitious convergence
plans. Intel forked out $59.23 million to pick up 3.3 per cent stake
in Hinduja-owned IndusInd Media & Communications. Chandra's
Siticable was valued by HSBC at $1.9 billion. MSOs announced upgradation
plans, but the investments were more promised than made. The cable
TV industry grew to over 30 million subscribers in the year, up
from around 28 million a year ago.
Telecom operators like Reliance, Bharti, BPL and Spectranet also
began to dream of the convergence play. Hopes on broadband emerged
with players like NumTv.com, broadcastindia.com, sharkstream.com,
homelandnetworks, and spectranet.com surfacing.
On the policy front, Ku-band DTH broadcasting was permitted after
a three year ban. Guidelines were issued but a detailed note on
how DTH will roll out mysteriously did not see the light of day.
Uplinking and ownership of earth stations by private broadcasters
from Indian soil were opened up.
No final word was heard on the broadcasting bill however. The idea
of a convergence bill was mooted, but it was caught up in a tussle
between the IT, telecom and I&B ministries as to who would play
the steering role for convergence.
The door was open for private players to own and operate communication
satellite systems. The local INSAT system was offered for commercial
use by private agencies.
Sun TV and Eenadu TV were the first players to get permission to
enter the fray. They set up their own earth stations and were granted
Meanwhile, Chandra's ambitious Agrani satellite project ran into
export licence issues under US munitions restrictions imposed after
India's nuclear explosions.