Television

TV9 network on sale; Zee group front-runner?

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MUMBAI: Consolidation in the Indian news television business is but a foregone conclusion, thanks to the plethora of channels operating in the space. The only question is when and who.

Well, here’s another news television network which is possibly on the auctioneer’s table. Associated Broadcasting Co Pvt Ltd is reportedly looking for a buyer for its seven regional TV news channel bouquet under the TV9 brand, says a report by Business Standard this morning. ABCL employs over 5000 people across three countries.

The report also quotes TV9 founder & CEO Ravi Prakash saying that “private equity investors typically follow a seven-year horizon for their exit strategy while our investors stayed with the company for 12 years. We have been in touch with a couple of people for possible stake sale. But no final decision has been taken till now."

The front-runner in this stake sale is reportedly the cash-rich Subhash Chandra-run Zee TV group.

The investors of TV 9 had reportedly been seeking the right valuation for a majority stake sale and Zee seems to be up for it. The Zee group is likely to purchase a majority stake in ABCL, the Hyderabad-based media firm, which owns the TV9 brand.

Chintalapati Srinivasa Raju, a venture capitalist, owns around 60 per cent of ABCL, Saif Partners, the US-based private equity firm, holds around 20 per cent while TV9 CEO and ABCL founder Ravi Prakash and his associates own the remaining 20 per cent stake.

Under CEO Ravi Prakash's leadership, ABCL's mission has been to continually advance and improve the dissemination and quality of news and bring to viewers media services in their local languages. ABCL covers television, filmed entertainment, cable network programming, internet services operating direct broadcast satellite television, in India, United States of America and Africa.

ABCL CFO MKVN Murthy brought to TV9 rich acumen gained decades of experience in the entertainment and communications industry. In addition, he has a deep understanding of the ins and outs of cable and satellite distribution platforms. Murthy has been the lead player in the company's aggressive expansion to new markets in Karnataka, Gujarat, Mumbai and its partnership forays into Kerala and Kolkata.

Saif Partners and Raju have reportedly been waiting for the expected valuations to sell their ABCL stake for quite some time now.

Incorporated in May, 2003, ABCL had started with first 24-hour Telugu news channel under TV9 in the following year and expanded subsequently to other regional languages. It currently runs seven news channels including the TV9 Kannada, TV 9 Marathi and the popular TV 9 Gujarati news.

The deal between the promoters of ABCL and Zee Group is expected to be closed in a couple of months, sources said. Zee was one of the four companies that had signed NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) with the promoters of ABCL some time ago, a senior ABCL official said.

Zee group, which runs 35 news and entertainment channels in Hindi, English and other major languages, had closed down its Telugu news channel around four years ago. The potential purchase TV 9 may give Zee an opportunity to re-enter the Telugu market on the strength of a strong local brand and would also help it to expand its presence in important markets such as Gujarat, the Business Standard report explains.

Srini Raju had promoted iLabs Capital (which later became Peepul Capital LLC) had invested around Rs 80 crore in ABCL's first round of funding in 2004. Saif Partners acquired 20 per cent stake from Peepul in 2009.

ABCL is committed to professional and social journalism. This is reflected in its dynamic style of news coverage and the corporate social responsibility work undertaken by the various TV9 channels in India and through Simba Television Network in Africa.

Ravi started the first TV9 channel in Telugu which changed the dynamics of media and breaking news in Andhra Pradesh. Named as the "catalyst for progressive change", Ravi’s news network has consistently focused on how media can facilitate a fair, equal modern society through its news and programming. Known for his impeccable anchoring skills his programme "encounter" an interview based political show has been widely appreciated for its analytical and presentational style.

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