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A year that churned and churned

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Litigation and sting operations. These two were the dominant themes of 2005 that overshadowed other happenings in the Rs 150 billion broadcast and cable industry. There were some interesting programming initiatives, with reality and game shows emerging as a force to reckon with. The tangled bandwidth problem on cable TV networks further entangled the content distribution issue into knots for the various players.

In a way, 2005 can be called the year of court cases. The year started with court cases relating to cricket rights, the resonance of which could be felt throughout the year, and ended with a controversial interim ruling banning carriage of `A' certified movies on cable and TV channels in the state of Maharashtra.



Consensus was passé and flaunting a confrontationist attitude seemed hip and happening. Don't believe us? Here's a short take on the series of litigations.



Apart from the cricket cases, Ten Sports and ESPN Star Sports challenged the government's new media norms, describing them as "unfair"; the cable operators sought judicial intervention in cases relating to broadcasters; MSOs argued forcefully in courts on the CAS' implementation and broadcasters too have moved courts against the regulator's diktat on cable prices and the disputes tribunal's (Tdsat's) observation on the must-provide clause. Not to mention, numerous other cases that are pending and being fought out in smaller courts spread across the country relating to the media.



The year also saw heightened skirmishes amongst news channels for ratings and a share of the advertising pie as channels simply mushroomed. It is estimated that out of the Rs. 45 billion total ad spend on TV, the news channels corner approximately Rs 4,500 million.



A fall out of this dogfight amongst news channels - market leader Aaj Tak managed to hang on its numero uno position despite competition from NDTV India and Star News - was a series of sting operations that were carried out by news hounds throughout the year.



Rajat Sharma's India TV was first off the stingers' block when Suhaib Ilyasi and a news reporter caught some film and TV actors in Mumbai and some religious leaders in Gujarat with their pants down. The other news channel got stung to and went on a sting spree: Aaj Tak, NDTV, Star News, Zee News - all of them took recourse to the hidden camera to come up with exposes. A befitting tribute to such initiatives was the expulsion in December of 11 Members of Parliament caught on camera by a news channel in a cash-for-question scandal.



In a year when increased legal activity forced the government to revisit existing policies and think about fresh ones to tackle various issues in the media, one must pat the authorities for having enacted for the first time a downlink law that gives landing rights to channels uplinking from outside the country on the fulfillment of certain criteria.



The stringency of the uplink and downlink norms can be debated, but one cannot argue against having a law in place in a market like India that has become the favourite hunting ground for almost all the big broadcasting companies in the world. An average Indian viewer with some fancy cable TV connections can actually receive over 400 TV channels currently.



The government felt some degree of control is necessary to bring about orderliness in a chaotic industry that's now generating billions of dollars in revenue (cable subscription, for example, alone is estimated to be approximately Rs. 80 billion in 2005).



However, the clauses in the amended uplink and downlink guidelines stipulating all sporting events of national importance, within and outside India, will have to be shared with the pubcaster Prasar Bharati on a mandatory basis has opened up a Pandora's Box.



On the satellite TV network front, Star continued to gobble up a lion's share of the market despite minor losses by Star Plus, which was offset by the emergence of Star One as a power to reckon with, according to an analysis by OMS (SEE TABLE). Sony Entertainment Television's loss is seen in the overall bouquet share, while with higher number of channels, the Zee bouquet managed to hold an edge over the Sony bouquet.



Sony Network

Channel
3 Oct-19 Dec'04
26 Dec' 04-13 Mar'05
19 June-4 Sep'05
13 Nov-10 Dec'05
Sony TV
5.9
5.8
4.9
4.3
MAX
4.6
4.5
4.6
4.7
SAB TV
0.8
0.8
0.5
0.8
MTV
0.5
0.6
0.5
0.5
AXN
0.4
0.3
0.3
0.2
Animax
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
SET bouquet Total
12.3
12.0
10.8
10.5



Star Network

Channel
3 Oct-19 Dec'04
26 Dec' 04-13 Mar'05
19 June-4 Sep'05
13 Nov-10 Dec'05
Star Plus
18.1
18.1
17.3
17.8
Star Gold
3.7
3.6
3.2
3.5
Star News
1.0
1.2
1.4
1.4
Star Utsav
0.7
0.7
0.6
0.5
Star Movies
0.6
0.6
0.5
0.6
NGC
0.5
0.4
0.4
0.3
Star One
0.5
0.7
1.8
2.6
Channel V
0.4
0.4
0.4
0.5
Star Sports
0.4
0.8
0.6
0.4
Star World
0.1
0.2
0.1
0.1
History
0.1
0.1
0.1
0.1
Star bouquet Total
26.1
26.6
26.4
27.7



Zee Network

Channel
3 Oct-19 Dec'04
26 Dec' 04-13 Mar'05
19 June-4 Sep'05
13 Nov-10 Dec'05
Zee Cinema
4.6
4.6
5.7
5.1
Zee TV
4.2
5.5
4.4
4.1
Zee News
0.9
1.0
1.2
0.8
Zee Premier
0.6
0.5
0.3
0.3
Zee Music
0.3
0.3
0.1
0.1
Zee Studio
0.3
0.2

0.1

0.1
Zee Smile
0.2
0.3
1.0
0.6
Zee Classic
0.1
0.1
0.1
0.2
Zee Jagran
0.1
0.2
0.2
0.2
Zee Cafe
0.1
0.1
0.1
0.0
Zee Trendz
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
Zee Business
0.0
0.0
0.1
0.1
Zee Sports
0.0
0.0
0.1
0.5
Zee bouquet Total
11.2
12.8
13.5
12.1
Source : OMS Analysis using Tam Data

Market:N+W+E Average

TG:All adults ;4+; ALL SECs; C& S





For a quick summary of 2005, here are some of the milestones.



NEWS

News channels in the Indian television market continued to buzz with launches in the business news segment. . Besides covering the mother of all disasters - the Tsunami and its aftermath - and the Mumbai deluge, which brought out some unlikely heroes, the news channels continued to be rattled with high churning as people came and went as if their corporate offices had revolving doors.

The Raghav Bahl-promoted Television Eighteen Group not only emerged as a solid performer on Mint Street, but also enhanced its portfolio and image by launching new products (Awaaz and CNN IBN, for instance) and roping in NDTV stalwart Rajdeep Sardesai to editorially head what's being seen as a series of news channels.



The restructuring of the TV 18 Group to comply with government norms related to news channels was another important marker achieved.



NDTV marked its entry in the business news segment by launching NDTV Profit on 13 January, while continuing to pose a serious threat to Hindi news market leader Aaj Tak through NDTV India.



Though the Prannoy Roy founded network announced plans of launching a general entertainment channel through a separate company and also murmured to investors about a news channel focusing on the various regions of India, nothing much was heard of them after that.



While there was a lot of talk about Zee News, Star News, Aaj Tak, CNBC TV18 and NDTV India, new and smaller entrants forced the big daddies of news to sit up and take note of the fragmenting market.



Channels such as Channel7 from the Dainik Jagran Group, views channel Janmat from Sri Adhikari Brothers, Tez from the TV Today stable, Delhi-centric Sahara Samay NCR, Total TV and S1 ( promoted by non-media groups) are all aiming to cash in on the cable boom (61 million at last count) and the improving advertising spend in general.

As if this were not enough, The Times of India and Reuters combine (Times NOW) and Zee supremo Subhash Chandra are planning Indian and an international news channels, respectively.



The Mumbai deluge, which had paralysed the financial hub for a week in July, brought in good news for Star News, which saw the birth of a Bengali sibling Star Ananda in 2005. The channel, which held a meagre 10 to 12 per cent market share, witnessed a surge in its share riding the deluge.



SPORTS CHANNELS

Sports, especially cricket, continued to make news on and off the field even as the Indian cricket's team's fortunes fluctuated and controversies regarding the team coach and telecast rights hogged the media limelight.

Though the cricket telecast rights issue still hangs in balance with the Indian cricket board not yet deciding on it, legal redressal sought by ESPN Star Sports and Ten Sports on government norms relating to sharing sports content with pubcaster Doordarshan is unlikely to move out of the spotlight in 2006 in a hurry.



The sports genre got a new player in Zee Sports. That the channel means serious business can be gauged by its slick packaging and its international look and feel. The recently concluded Indo-Sri Lanka test cricket series served as an excellent marketing platform for it to get noticed.



Another significant happening this year on the sports front involved channels doing innovations around Indian sport. With more players, the ad pie eventually needs to go beyond just cricket. ESS kicked off its 10-year deal with the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) with the inaugural edition of the Premier Hockey League (PHL) in January. The game's format was re-designed and made TV friendly.

Zee Sports took the football route. It signed a 10-year deal with the football federation. The channel looked to boost the way football is covered in India by having a 12-camera set up for the first two events. That is the way football is covered in Europe.



On a positive note, both ESS and Ten Sports did well on the distribution front. For ESS this was expected to be a difficult period as it did not have any Indian cricket on its plate. Which it probably was. ESS will probably have to wait till December 2006 when India tours South Africa, unless it gets the India cricket rights - the chances of which are looking slim at the moment.



KIDS CHANNELS

2005 was a year when kids were in for a treat in terms of programming and merchandising fanfare provided to them by channels. Making it clear that it's no child's play, the kiddie channels unleashed some aggressive activities to pocket maximum eyeballs and revenues.

The leader in the space, Cartoon Network, which, like many other channels, crossed its 10 year milestone in India this year, suddenly felt the heat with Mickey Mouse's entry in the country late last year with the Disney Channel and Toon Disney. More so as Donald Duck and company also started speaking Hindi.



Another new entrant, Hungama TV, too carved a niche for itself, which prompted parent UTV to open up talks with the South India-based Sun TV network for a kids channel in South Indian languages.



Nick suddenly woke up towards the end of the year after Hema Govindan joined as general manager, while Animax's slumber was interrupted for a wee bit in the summer with the launch of Jackie Chan Adventures and Godzilla. After that it switched back to sleep mode.



Increased competition saw Cartoon Network losing considerable amount of marketshare, but it retained its top slot due to the huge lead it has had. While the Disney channels faced some initial hiccups as far as distribution was concerned, things started falling in place midway this year.



Though the launch of new channels didn't manage to explode audience growth, a marginal migration was seen with kids TV taking away six per cent of target viewership from the general entertainment channels. Animation programming provided the initial push, but the major leap will have to come by drawing in the tweenies (age group 10-14 years).



A highlight of the year was the visit of Walt Disney International's top honchos - Robert Iger and Michael Eisner in April - just four months after the company started its India operations.



Merchandising was another thrust area for Cartoon Network and Disney Channel. The year saw the phenomenon that was Beyblade. The show was launched on Cartoon Network in June and was an instant money-spinner. Merchandising around the show - Beyblades (spinning tops) and Beystadiums - were runaway hits with boys. More than a few million Beyblades were sold as cheap Chinese and Korean imports flooded the market. For kids, Beyblades have become part of a culture. a local lingo, though sales have since then slowed down.



ENGLISH ENTERTAINMENT CHANNELS

For English general entertainment channels, the localisation drive gathered momentum as they chanted the 'glocal' mantra of thinking global, acting local more often.

After being quiet for quite a while, Zee Café partially rebounded into the limelight announcing three local initiatives. The biggest one was Bombay Talking, a soap woven around the glamour world of Hindi cinema. The cost of this show is almost two and a half times more than a prime time show on Zee TV, says Zee Café business head Neil Chakravarti. Just goes to show the channel means business.



Action-oriented AXN under the Sony network, chose to go a different route to localise this year. In the past few years, it had done so though reality shows like Who Dares Wins. This year, though, its big local push revolved around the gaming phenomenon through the show GameMax, which gives information on the latest games, news and previews on the gaming industry from around the world. And of course Fear Factor.



What will be interesting to see is what Star World, which in the past added some local flavour through shows like Koffee With Karan, does next year in this regard. The channel also went with great aggression for the jugular by unveiling big western shows.



First came the Desperate Housewives, which was followed regularly by new shows. But with Housewives not really setting the Bay of Bengal or the Arabian Sea on fire, it is important for some local shows to be present on the channel.



For NGC the local push came courtesy Mission Udaan. This was its third Mission property following Mission Everest and Mission Mars. This time the search in conjunction with the Indian Air Force (IAF) is to find five people who get a once in a lifetime opportunity of flying a plane. The channel claimed that it got 60,000 entries for the same.



NGC, however, will remember 2005 as a year when it underwent a major re-branding exercise with the two fold aim of aggressively driving ad revenues and viewership. The aim was to get out the message that NGC had become bolder, more contemporary and is also about entertaining the curious mind.



Discovery, meanwhile, completed 10 years of existence in the country. It celebrated this with the on-air initiative 10 Years Of Discovery, which showcased the channel's biggest shows like Blue Planet.



This year Discovery commissioned Indian producers to make two local shows for Discovery Travel and Living. This represents DTL's first push towards localisation since its launch in 2004. These India-made shows will air next year. Discovery also entered the merchandising arena this year through a deal with Shloka Publications for VCDs.



On the English movie front, HBO finished five years in India. It went back to Turner for distribution and ad sales and also upped the original content ante in the fourth quarter with a new show every month.



This culminated in the mini series Angels In America. Curiously though, analysis by OMS data shows that the amount of time spent on English movie channels has fallen in 2005.



Star India

More than anything else, it was a time to heave a sigh of relief for Star as first the I&B ministry and then the telecommunication ministry gave a long pending green signal to its DTH joint venture with the Tatas. Starting of a Bengali news channel in association with the Kolkata-based ABP Group gave further momentum to its joint ventures in India.



The year saw Star continue to dominate the Hindi general entertainment space like a colossus. And, the success of the experiment called Star One added the icing on the cake.

Star Plus brought back the second version of its most successful show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), this time from Friday to Sunday with an aim to build up the weekend time slots.



Superstar-anchor Amitabh Bachchan's health towards the end of the year did bring some worry creases. But Star feels that it has enough new episodes in the cans, which can be added with re-runs of special editions to see through Bachchan's medical problems. As an added precaution, KBC's frequency has been reduced to twice a week.



Star Gold was relaunched in 2005 with the network working on an aggressive movie acquisition strategy. Star India also introduced the concept of mobile-enabled TV episodes (mobisodes) to Indian television. The company associated with Hutch to create 'mobisodes' of the successful Star One comedy show The Great Indian Laughter Challenge.



Sony Entertainment TV India

As SET India celebrated 10 years of operations in India, the visit of Sony Corp CEO Howard Stringer - the first ever Sony Corp top honcho to come here - was reassuring and a morale booster for a company that completed a successful $ 13 million acquisition of SAB TV as part of a flanking strategy.

Sony Entertainment TV, which is a clear number two in the general entertainment space, saw the successful end of the first season of Indian Idol in March with the final episode garnering a 14.29 TVR. The show rocketed to the third slot just after perennial No 1 Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kasauti Zindagi Kay.



On the cricket front too, SET India was active, snaring international cricket rights for the Indo-Pak series earlier this year for $11.5 million. It then sub-licensed the satellite rights for West Asia and Pakistan to the Dubai-based Ten Sports for roughly $ 2.5 million. It also acquired the telecast rights for the ICC Super Series.

With format shows becoming a force to reckon with, Sony acquired some new ones like Deal Or No Deal, Juana's Miracle, Fear Factor and Extreme Makeover.



Fame Gurukul delivered well and helped the 8.30 pm slot grow by more than 100 per cent. The channel consolidated its 8.30 pm position and launched three new shows in the same week defining it as a 'New Era in Entertainment'.

Zee Telefilms Ltd

The country's largest vertically integrated media company Zee Telefilms Ltd can term 2005 as a year when its hopes got dashed (as the Supreme Court ruled against its petition challenging the Indian cricket boss' diktats) and rekindled as towards the end of the year a new regime took over the Indian cricket board and promptly handed Zee the rights for the India-Sri Lanka Test series.



Considering that the group's promoter Subhash Chandra is bullish on cricket and his sports channel, late developments augur well for the group.



And, then the predictably unpredictable Chandra relinquished the position of managing director deciding to continue as the non-executive chairman and principal promoter of Zee Telefilms. Who'll fill the MD's vacant slot? A good question for which nobody has an immediate answer except guesses like CEO Pradeep Guha who might be elevated to the vacant position.



The high profile Guha joined as the CEO of Zee Tele from Bennett, Coleman & Co, publishers of The Times of India.



While Chandra re-entered the FM radio race through Essel Group company Pan India Network Infravest, he also hived off the news business into a separate company, Zee News Pvt Ltd with scaled down the foreign holding to comply with government norms.



In the restructured news entity, Zee Telefilms' equity stake is 35 per cent, which works out under a complex formula to about 20 per cent of foreign holding on a pro rata basis.



ZTL also restructured its top management. The most crucial was the change at the top for flagship channel Zee TV. Puneet Goenka, who had been overseeing the operations of Zee Sports, was made Zee TV business head, while outgoing Zee TV business head Abhijit Saxena returned to the arena where he first made a mark, the distribution business. Saxena also supervises special projects for Zee TV.



After almost 13 years of existence, the Zee Network decided to sport a new look, which also included renaming of the three English channels. Zee English, ZMZ and MX were re-named as Zee Café, Zee Studios and Zee Select, respectively. Comedy channel Smile TV became Zee Smile and Trendz got re-christened as Zee Trendz. All channels under the Alpha brand were brought under the Zee brand. The company's lone south Indian presence, Zee Telugu, got relaunched in May 2005.

With game shows being the flavour of the year, Zee TV launched the Rs 30 million Kam ya Zyaada in the last leg of the calendar year with actor Manoj Bajpai as an anchor.



Programming-wise, the channel attempted a variety of genres this year. Sinndoor Tere Naam Ka and a consistent Tumhari Disha have helped the channel to strengthen the 7:30 pm - 8 pm time band. 2005 also saw Zee TV increasing its production and promotion budgets manifold.



On the international front, Zee Arabiya, a music and lifestyle channel for the youth, was launched. This was Zee's first localised channel offering in the Middle East. Zee has commited to invest around Rs 1.2 billion in the region within a year.



Sahara One

Look now, the channel has changed. With the channel's management falling under Percept and professionals like Shantonu Aditya and Purnendu Bose being brought in to run the entertainment (both film and TV) and television business respectively, Sahara One is literally buzzing. From being a network without a raison de etre, Sahara One looks like a channel with a mandate. It aims to be on the list of the entertainment channels that count. It probably has achieved some of that ambition already. Programming head Kumud Chaudhuri and the marketing team led by Rajeev Chakrabarti, have worked to build shows such as Woh Rehne Wali Mahlon Ki, and Kittuu and Indian Diva. Woh Rehne.. actually got a special commendation at The Indian Telly Awards as a show that made a difference during the year.

Air time ad rates, according to ssssAditya, have risen are up five to 10 times. The only way is forward, he points out.



The industry is awaiting the launch of its movie channel Sahara Filmy, later this month (January), and of other new programming initiatives in the next two months. That should give Sahara One a further boost .



The regional channel equation



The Sun Network emerged as the most powerful regional player in 2005 with its activities spreading in India as well as well in other countries like Malaysia where a multi-million dollar deal has been signed with Astro for a slew of TV channels.

An indicator of Sun's diversification is the proposed foray in the DTH segment. The group got government clearance for its proposed DTH venture, which is to be beamed via Insat-4C that is scheduled for a launch in February 2006.

This year saw Vijay TV leveraging on the programming strengths of its parent company Star India. The Tamil channel brought major Star India properties such as Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) and The Great Indian Laughter Challenge on board.



The formidable Malayalam television network, Asianet, launched its youth and lifestyle channel Asianet Plus this year.



The Communist Party-backed Kairali TV in Kerala launched its news channel People TV. The Malayalam television space also witnessed the launch of the Amrita TV. Some other South Indian media conglomerates like Malayala Manorama plan to launch news channels next year.



Former Star India country head Rathikant Basu's Broadcast Worldwide launched news and music channels, Tara News and Tara Muzik, early this year after discontinuing its general entertainment channel Tara Bangla.



The general message of 2005: Even as broadcasting activities increase in India with new channels mushrooming and existing ones expanding and innovating programme-wise, there is an acute need to have a comprehensive broadcast content regulation. More so as 2006 will see at least two other DTH services getting added to the existing services, DD Direct+ and Dish TV, and a multiplication in delivery platforms.

(Rs 45=1 US$)

(INPUTS by Manisha Bhattacharjee, Ashwin Pinto, Hetal Adesara and Bijoy AK)

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