Asianet launches Kannada news channel 'Suvarna News'

BANGALORE: Asianet Communications Ltd (ACL) today launched Suvarna News, a 24-hour Kannada news channel.

ACL is planning to launch its Telugu general entertainment channel (GEC) Sitara Television in April while the Marathi and Tamil GECs will be up within six months, says Suvarna COO K Sanjay Prabhu.

With the launch of Suvarna News, Asianet Television Network (ATN) will have five operational channels – three Malayalam and two Kannada. Asianet also has two radio channels that were launched a couple of months ago.

Suvarna News is the third Kannada news channel to be launched in the state, the other two being the Sun group's Udaya Verthegalu and TV9 Karnataka. “In Karnataka, people just love to watch the news - be it local, national or international,” says Prabhu.

ACL expects to garner ad revenues of Rs 300 million each from Suvarna's GEC and the news channel in the next fiscal. Pundits predict the size of the Kannada television ad market to reach Rs 2 billion in FY'09. Hence, the Suvarna bouquet has ambitious plans of garnering 30 per cent of the market.

Prabhu revealed that around Rs 1.1 billion have been invested in the two Kannada channels so far. He is confident that the Suvrana GEC operations will turn profitable in the next fiscal, and those of Suvarna News a year after.

Among the major advertisers already on board on Suvarna News are HUL and the Confident group. The latter is the title sponsor of Suvarna GEC’s popular five-day-a-week talent hunt show Confident Star Singer. “We have a package deal with the Confident group,” said Prabhu, who admits that there could be a number of cross deals of a similar nature with other advertisers.

ATN is having talks with P&G, reveal company sources.

Following the launch of the news channel, the news portion on the GEC has undergone changes. Earlier, Suvarana used to broadcast four news bulletins and five minutes of news shorts every hour. This has been brought down to just two news bulletins per day.

Suvarna News will focus in the 15-45 age group in Karnataka. The channel has nine full-fledged bureaus with studios in the state and another bureau in Delhi. It also has 30 stringers for news and content gathering.

The channel has four DSNG (Digital Satellite News Gathering) and three MB vans. News will also be obtained through ANI and Reuters. “A policy decision has to be taken as yet whether we will go in for syndication with other news channels in other states, or whether we should have our setup,” says Suvarana News editor Shiddarth Bhatt who worked with the Indian Express group on its political desk for 17 years before joining the GEC Suvarana as its news editor about a year ago.

“Some news channels depend on airing crime, sleaze and cinema to get the eyeballs. Our focus will be on politics and corruption. It will be investigative journalism that will help unearth scams and other political wrongdoings,” informs Bhatt.

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