'If we bag BCCI rights then there would be enough cricket to justify a separate sports channel'' : Kunal Dasgupta - SET India CEO

There is an unwritten rule for those in Delhi, who cover the media: don't miss any event where Sony Entertainment TV India CEO Kunal Dasgupta is present. Reason being that the gentleman is a journalist's delight and seldom disappoints media professionals. Though Dasgupta, these days, shies away from giving long interviews, his observations on the industry --- along with his ability to laugh at himself --- makes him one of the most sought after media CEOs.

Take, for instance, his reference to SET India's attempts to lay its hands on the telecast rights of Board for Control of Cricket India-organised cricket. With candour, he informs a bunch of nodding journalists in the Capital that this is one time he's using the media to get across his message to BCCI and whoever else has a say in the matter. Later, he tells that if Sony manages to get the cricket rights, many other plans would fall in place between now and the next cricket World Cup in the West Indies in 2007.


On the sidelines of a press conference in Delhi on 6 July --- mainly organized to announce the launch of Animax channel, something that was first reported by us in December last ---- caught up with Dasgupta for a brief while on some issues related to the company and the industry. But not before he had made some wisecracks on 'rona-dhona' (mushy and emotional) serials still ruling the TRPs on Indian television (an indirect hint to the still-chart-topping Balaji serials on Star Plus) and how Animax was NOT being launched to overtake Star Plus.



On other launches after Animax...

There are several gaps in the bouquet and we are looking at them. A sports channel is missing. There's definitely a need for a shopping channel. May be regional and business channels too.

On Sony making forays in Indian languages, apart from Hindi

Yes, we have been talking about a regional channel or more than one for some time, but you cannot rush me into launching one. I don't see Sony making any move in this direction before 2006-07 (by that time, probably, Dasgupta's contract would have been renewed, again). We are looking at both type of alliances, equity and distribution tie-ups.

On whether SET India would bid for the BCCI cricket telecast rights

We are very aggressive on that, but it would be tough for everybody. Though, unlike other cricket bodies, BCCI hasn't given any details and there is no formal tendering that takes place. But we would invite ourselves to the bidding process, in whatever form, as we keep on having talks with BCCI at both formal and informal levels.

On the likely contenders for three BCCI cricket rights

ESPN is certainly there and has the bidding power too. But the biggest factor is Doordarshan (the Indian pubcaster), which had the rights for the last five years (the agreement term came to an end earlier this year).


As the rights holder last time, DD has the first right of refusal. If it decides to go ahead and bag it this time around too, others would be left out in the cold. Sahara (the sponsors of the Indian cricket and hockey team) can be a rank outsider in the whole bidding process.

On the amount of money that SET India is ready to cough up for such cricket telecast rights and whether the asking sum could be in the region of Rs 6,000-7,000 million

I cannot disclose the financial details, but we will try to make an offer that BCCI would find hard to refuse. But we need to have some details like the number of matches that would be on offer, the type of countries India would be playing and so on. I think, the asking sum may be even higher than what you all are quoting. (Last time, DD paid approximately Rs 2,250 million for a five-year contract.)

On Sony's plans for a sports channel in the bouquet

As I said, there's definitely a gap as far as a sports channel is concerned. But having a separate sports channel would also depend on whether we manage to bag the BCCI cricket telecast rights. If we manage to do that, then between those cricket matches and the ICC-organised cricket rights, which we have till the next World Cup, there would be enough cricket to justify having a separate sports channel.


We can look at splitting the feed for SET Max separately for (dedicated) sports and movies then. And, if Sony bags the cricket rights, the terrestrial feed would be shared with Doordarshan. I have been saying that all along and I am reiterating it. But all these plans depend on whether we manage to get the BCCI cricket and that's a BIG if.

"The idea is to keep launching channels or keep adding channels to the bouquet and this way you can raise prices"

On Sony's plans on exploiting the broadband/wireless business

What others (again hinting at Star India's announcements on creating a separate wireless division recently to tap the emerging business opportunities) are talking about now, we have been already doing. Our 2525 number has been generating good business and along with the site there are various services available, including Jassi (Sony's successful serial, Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin) ring tones and downloading of serial clippings on MMS-enabled cell phone (in association with Orange).


For the last two years, we have been generating revenues between Rs 120- Rs 150 million through our wireless endeavours. For the wireless business, which is part of the main channel venture, we already have tie-ups with various service providers, except Reliance. Wireless is a good business proposition and is exciting too.

On Sony's bid at having a reality show and the success rate in India.

We have plans to launch a reality show, but we also understand that there are certain negatives attached to such shows in India. We need to understand why reality shows haven't been very successful in India and then address them. Maybe, India hasn't had a real reality show on TV in that sense.

On whether Sony's distribution revenue would get hit if the sector regulator-mandated freeze on cable prices continues.

It's an issue as distribution has been a revenue driver. If the price freeze continues (announced by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India earlier this year), then we'll have to live with it. But, don't you realize that to beat the price freeze, people are launching channels these days? So, the idea is to keep launching channels or keep adding channels to the bouquet and this way you can raise prices somewhat.

On whether Sony is planning a high-end Hindi entertainment channel, a la Star One which debuts in October.

There is something big that is coming up, but I cannot tell you the details now. It would not be a third-party channel, but very much Indian. After all, we have to do something to counter Star One (a channel being launched in October by Star to tap hi-end advertisers like auto companies through programming that would appeal to the young and upwardly mobile young India).

On whether Sony would join DTH platforms started by others

If DTH platform operators give us good commercial terms, we are open to giving our channels to everybody. Dish TV (promoted by Subhash Chandra companies) is talking to us, but hasn't yet given good commercial terms. However, we would not like to join a free DTH platform or anything that is free. (This in a way almost rules out Sony channels on the proposed DTH platform of DD, which, if launched, would come free to subscribers.)

On whether SET India is looking at replacing Rajat Jain who left MAX to head Disney operations in India.

NP Singh (SET India CFO) has been given Rajat's responsibilities and we are not immediately looking at finding a replacement for him. NP would be given a team and he can supervise the work. As and when, if at all, we do look for a replacement, then it would be preferable to have somebody from within the company.

Latest Reads
Maha Cartoon targets 65 per cent rural HSM via DD FreeDish, 2000 LCOs

Who can forget the Charlie Chaplin show which entertained the world audience of all ages. Maha Cartoon, the first free-to-air (FTA) Hindi cartoon channel targeted at the Hindi-speaking markets (HSM), will be launched on India's largest DTH platform DD FreeDish on 1 November. The new Maha Cartoon...

Television TV Channels Kids
Vikram Chandra steps down; KVL Narayan Rao is new NDTV group CEO

The rumours that were making rounds of Vikram Chandra quitting NDTV have now been put to rest.

Television TV Channels People
Naagin helps Colors capture top position this week: BARC

Backed by Naagin Season 2, Colors was almost close to Star Plus to get the number one position, but, this week, Colors went few steps ahead and grabbed the leadership position and replaced Star Plus in week 42. Even in Urban GECs market, Colors toppled Star and took over the number one position.

Television TV Channels Viewership
SPN India to broadcast Barclays ATP World Tour finals

Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) will exclusively broadcast the upcoming ATP events in the month of November. The ATP 1000 Paris Masters will be aired live on Sony ESPN channels and will be streamed live on SonyLIV app and website. The ATP 1000 Paris Masters in Paris will begin on 31 October.

Television TV Channels Sports
Hunt for Zee Business head continues

MUMBAI: Zee Business, an arm of Zee Media Corporation, has seen several transitions in its management this year. The channel was initially headed by Amish Devgan, who decided to move away after serving for 14 years. It was then led by Zee Media Corporation’s then CEO for content Samir Ahluwalia,who...

Television TV Channels People
'King' content will take over monopolistic media entities, says Arnab Goswami

NEW DELHI: The future of news lies in breaking away from the interdependence of politicians and the media on each other.

Television TV Channels News Broadcasting
Animated 'Ramayana' a global Diwali gift on web, mobile

NEW DELHI: Thirty episodes of the animated series Ramayana will be available around the world on the nexGTv web and mobile platforms during Diwali.

Television TV Shows Animation
Sports Minister lauds b'casters, other stakeholders in promoting sports

NEW DELHI: India’s Sports Minister Vijay Goel said on Wednesday that digital media broadcasting will play a critical role in bringing about change in sports broadcasting in India but broadcasters must also focus on how sports as a product is delivered to audiences in rural areas so as to popularise...

Television TV Channels Sports
Know your karma on IBN7 with 'Karm Path'

In an attempt to give its viewers a refreshing start of the day, IBN7 is launching a new show titled Karm Path. Starting 27 October, the show will predict what the day holds. The show is a differentiator in its own genre as it connotes the supremacy of deeds over destiny.

Television TV Channels News Broadcasting

Latest News

Load More

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories