'A very good year for TV news business, with a huge upside for the industry'

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By Narayan Rao, Group CEO, NDTV Group Posted on : 05 Jan 2007 06:30 pm

The year 2007 has been very, very good so far as business is concerned. We had all approached the year with certain things that we needed to do, and my organisation had decided to move to areas that go beyond news. So we went on a funding road show in March-April this year, collected the money we needed to for funding the verticals we wanted to develop and we have done so, getting into various aspects of media activity.

In fact, if you look at NDTV Network story, in a sense this was the real media story of the country this year, with the six verticals that I run now, consequent to raising of the funding. One is NDTV Imagine, the GEC from our company, which we expect to launch from end-January 2008. And entertainment has endless possibilities, music, films, and so many other aspects.

Then we have launched NDTV Lifestyle this year. This is our response to the economic changes and the increase in the size of the middle class and their spending habits, which are fast changing.

Under the NDTV Networks umbrella we now have news, entertainment, lifestyle, technology solutions, setting up new projects

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Today, you can walk into a mall in Saket (in the southern parts of New Delhi) and you can find Armani and other foreign and expensive brands. This was not the case even a year earlier. And there are people going to these places and buying these things. So we had targeted this niche audience, which believes in wellness and fitness and good living, health and happiness and so forth.

The other business is NDTV Convergence, which is a leading Web 2.0 company with interests in developing exclusive content for cross media platforms such as the Internet, mobile phones and IPTV.

We operate India's no 1 television news website www.ndtv.com along with other leading verticals, namely, NDTV Profit, NDTV Jobs, NDTV Travels, NDTV Gadgets, NDTV Shopping and NDTV Commodities. Convergence is really a hot property, and we have developed a very good management team, which is by the way true for all our verticals.

There is also another emerging trend, which is an MPO, a media processes outsourcing company. There are so many media companies that need to go digital, or have meta-tagging, or run specialised closed-captions, catering to audio-challenged and visually challenged persons. These companies need various solutions, so we have developed that vertical in a JV with Genpact and called the company N-gEN.

We said that the industry will bring its own code, and fortunately, the government accepted that

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We already had NDTV Labs, which deals with broadcast technology for ourselves, both software and hardware. We have been getting awards for these activities from Commonwealth Broadcasting Association and other agencies. We have people with 18 years of expertise in that field and so we decided that apart from producing these solutions for NDTV, this can become an independent business.

Then there is NDTV Emerging Markets which will set up new projects, like we have done in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Middle East.

So under the NDTV Networks umbrella we now have news, entertainment, lifestyle, technology solutions, setting up new projects. For me these are highly satisfactory developments. Broadly speaking, we have done everything that could be done in the realm of media, and I think many of us (other companies as well) have done likewise, which makes 2007 a very good business year.

But yes, there have been a few contentious issues as well, like regulation, of which there are two broad aspects: the news content code and the Broadcast Regulation Bill.

So far as the content code is concerned, let me try to be as objective as is possible. The government set up a committee to look at all components of the content code, and the committee including educationists, activists, watchdog kind of people, the media itself, the government officials and so on.

But the when the code came out, it was simply not acceptable to us. For one thing, the committee had had just a single representative from the media, from the Indian Broadcasting Foundation. One must understand that the code was meant to regulate the news industry and it made no sense having just one person representing it. We were completely dominated by the ministerial majority. So we rejected it outright, because any code brought about by the government was not acceptable to us. We said that the industry will bring its own code, and fortunately, the government accepted that.

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