UTV ACQUIRES TAMIL TV CHANNEL
Mumbai-headquartered TV software production
house UTV has taken over the Tamil language channel Vijay
TV. UTV has offices in Canada, Mumbai and Singapore and
is one of the leading producers in India. The channel was
on the auctioning block for the past year since its owner,
liquor baron Vijay Mallya, who heads the UB group, decided
he didn't want to own it any more.
Vijay TV is reportedly losing more than 5 million every
month ($125,000) and is number four in the Tamil language
sweepstakes after DD, Sun TV, and Raj TV. The channel is
being telecast off a transponder on Intelsat 704.
Mallya had earlier bought the channel from the Udayar family,
which owns Golden Eagle Breweries, and re-christened it
as Vijay TV. Despite several efforts, like hiring a new
chief executive and bringing in new programming, he failed
to turn it around. And he had had an outstanding of Rs 55
million with the former owners which he didn't clear.
UTV promoter Ronnie Screwvala, apparently, has taken on
the liability and is settling dues with Golden Eagle. One
source indicates that Screwvala has the backing of investment/venture
capital firm Warburg Pincus. A couple of months ago he bought
out Rupert Murdoch's 37% stake in UTV (Murdoch had invested
49% in the production house in 1995-96) with Warburg Pincus'
assistance. The investment-banking firm now controls 24%
of UTV's equity. Others point out that it is the multi-billion
dollar industrial house of Tatas that is funding him. Screwvala
and Vijay TV officials were not available for comment.
Screwvala has in recent times steered his firm into new
areas, ranging from animation to sports management to movies
to documentary production to tele-shopping, setting up new
divisions and companies to manage each of the activities.
Screwvala runs a group with a turnover in excess of Rs 1,000