Mathrubhumi to invest Rs 500 mn in news and music channel

MUMBAI: Mathrubhumi TV, the television arm of Kerala’s Mathrubhumi Group, is planning to invest Rs 500 million in a Malayalam news channel and a multi-lingual music channel.

Mathrubhumi News will launch on 23 January while Kappa TV, the music channel, will go on air from 1 February.

The launch of these two channels will mark print major Mathrubhumi‘s entry into Kerala’s competitive TV news broadcasting space dominated by News Corp-owned Asianet Communications, its print media competitor Manorama News, news agency IANS’ Reporter TV and India Vision News.

Both the channels are free-to-air and have already secured carriage deals with most of the cable operators in the state including Asianet Cable Television, Kerala’s biggest multi-system operator (MSO). The company is also planning to launch the news channel in Gulf and in metro cities like Mumbai and Delhi.

Mathrubhumi TV chief executive officer Mohan Nair, who has earlier worked with Asianet Communications as COO and Sri Lankan media conglomerate Maharaja Broadcasting Corporation as CEO, believes that the television foray is a natural extension for the Mathrubhumi Group as it has interests in print through leading Malayalam daily Mathrubhumi and in radio courtesy Club FM.

"We had diversified into radio some years back and so we saw a rightful extension in television,” Nair says.

Mathrubhumi TV, which is also into content production, is a subsidiary of Mathrubhumi Printing & Publishing Co. Ltd. (MPPCL).

For 2010-11, MPPCL reported a net profit of Rs 300.4 million on net sales of Rs 3.89 billion. For the nine months ended 31 December, 2012, the company reported a net profit of Rs 238.6 million on net revenues of Rs 3.28 billion.

The TV News foray

Launching a news channel was a no-brainer for the Malayalam media company as it complements Mathrubhumi’s print media business. The 90-year-old Mathrubhumi newspaper is the flagship brand of the company and competes with Malayala Manorama which incidentally also runs a news channel, Manorama News.

Nair, who has also served as the chief of bureau of Economic Times in Mumbai, believes that the news channel‘s USP will be its HD technology, talented team of journalists, and independent coverage.

The last bit is important as Kerala has political party backed news channels namely Congress’ Jaihind TV and CPI (M)’s People TV.

“There are only four to five pure news channels in Kerala. Our USP is that we will be an independent news channel,” avers Nair.

News broadcasters in Kerala, like in the rest of the country, are heavily dependent on ad revenue, which is estimated to be in the region of Rs 1 billion.

The news channel will have Unni Krishnan as the Chief of News with a team of 250 journalists assisting him. Mathrubhumi News will have a bureau in every district of Kerala which will give it an edge in covering locally relevant issues.

Outside Kerala, the channel will also have bureaus in Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai.

Although news channels have a skew towards male audience, Mathrubhumi News will have programming that targets women and youth. “The idea is to have a complete news channel which offers something to everyone,” asserts Nair.

The channel is being promoted primarily through Mathrubhumi’s print and radio platform apart from outdoor ads.

Kappa TV to follow 9XM model

The Mathrubhumi Group is also betting big on its speciality channel Kappa TV that will air music and humour content. The company will follow the 9XM model which has a mix of music and animated content.

Kappa TV will air Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi and English songs in order to cater to the diverse taste of the state’s youth population.

However, Malayalam music will continue to be the driver content for the channel. The channel is targeted at 18-35 age group.

The Malayalam music genre currently has only two serious players in Asianet Plus and Raj Musix Malayalam.

"With Kappa TV, we intend to bring elements of radio on television," says Nair.

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