Zee News to invest $5 mn in UP news channel

MUMBAI: Zee News Limited (ZNL) will invest $5 million in its news channel for Uttar Pradesh, a market where only Sahara operates.

Zee 24 Ghante plans to launch by the end of the fiscal. "We are investing $5 million in the channel. We aim to break even in 18-24 months as the marketplace has just Sahara which makes around $4 million," a senior executive in the company said.

ZNL expects to suffer a loss of Rs 700 million from new businesses during the fiscal. For the first half of the year, the company has already incurred losses of Rs 280 million. While the newly-launched Tamil general entertainment channel, Zee Tamizh, booked a loss of Rs 50 million in the quarter, this is expected to go up in the subsequent quarters as the investments climb.

"We are in talks with SCV, Sun Group's cable TV company, for carriage of our channel. The distribution costs would go up as we aggressively push the channel," the source added.

Zee Telugu, the Telugu GEC, has broken even and plans are afoot to launch Telugu news channel Zee 24 Ghantalu in November. ZNL is also looking at innovative strategic investments to further expand the business in regional markets.

Marathi movie channel Zee Talkies, which has been transferred from Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd to ZNL from 1 August, is close to break even. "We are not revising our loss guidance from new businesses despite adding a few new channels during the fiscal," the source said.

Zee News posted a consolidated net profit of Rs 114.7 million for the quarter ended 30 September 2008, up 104.4 per cent from Rs 56.1 million in the previous year. Revenue jumped 60 per cent to stand at Rs 1.27 billion as compared to Rs 798.1 million in the prior year.

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