year 2000. It will go down as the year of the Great
Media Meltdown. When the year began, media companies
were all trying to bring in some aspect of the Internet
and the World Wide Web into their business plans.
As the year ends several of them are trying their
hardest to divorce themselves from these activities.
The reason: several media companies which had ridden
the convergence wave or were just adding it to their
business plans for valuations were swept away by the
tsunami of bad news from the dot com world as web
company after web company simply drowned. The bad
news from the WWW world made the Nasdaq struggle to
keep its head above the water and several companies
jettisoned billions of dollars of capitalisation.
Ditto with media stocks in India.
2000 will be remembered as the year which saw the
downfall of Zee Telefilms - one of the major mumblers
of the convergence chant. 2000 will be remembered
for the rise and rise of Rupert Murdoch's Star TV,
which is scaling new heights on the back of very successful
programming in the local Hindi language. It was almost
as if Star rose as its erstwhile Indian partner Zee
Telefilms descended to the depths in a very well-choreographed
manner. At the same time, Murdoch's Ozzie rival Kerry
Packer's Channel 9 made an entry into the country.
Another Murdoch rival Richard Li too sashayed in on
the back of his NoW broadband network. In fact, the
global media barons winged their way here making commitments
of investing bagfuls of dollars.
Game shows were the flavour of 2000. Especially one
- Kaun Banega Crorepati - which rescued a struggling
network and catapulted its host Amitabh Bachchan back
to superstar status. The second Sawal Dus Crore Ka
got its channel Zee TV into a bit of a mess, while
the third Jab Khelo, Sab Khelo, did little for its
channel Sabe TV. The fourth, Jeeto Chappar Phaad
Ke to debut on Sony next year looks set to give
KBC a run for its money.
The year will be remembered as the year of Cable TV
land's undelivered promise of bringing broadband Internet
to Indian cable TV homes at a cost which would put
the dial up ISPs and DSL providers out of business.
Leading Indian business magazines such as BusinessWorld
wrote glowing reports of how broadband was going to
hit Indian shores thanks to cable TV. Even as the
year ends a few stray attempts are being made and
that too hesitantly. There's a lot of hype; comparatively
less action. NumTv.com, broadcastindia.com, sharkstream.com,
homelandnetworks, spectranet.com are some of the more
famous drifting broadband ventures.
Additionally, battles to carve out further cable TV
territories continued between the MSOs, the MSOs and
independents and MSOs and smaller operators. The cable
TV marketplace burgeoned to almost 32 million subscribing
homes even as television manufacturers are saying
they will chalk up sales of five million colour TVs
by end this fiscal.
The past 12 months witnessed the resurgence of state-owned
broadcaster DD. The government hawked part of DD Metro
to Packer for an exorbitant Rs 1,200 odd million,
and just about managed to keep a fleeced broadcaster
afloat. The network again in an illogical move launched
DD Sports and DD News as encrypted services, took
support of a cable TV amendment to have them compulsorily
carried on cable TV networks. As the year ends, the
government is looking for a chief to run the network
and All India Radio's holding company Prasar Bharati.
The government went a little berserk during the year
on the legislation front. It resorted to executive
orders and government notifications to push through
piecemeal legislation. Ku-band DTH broadcasting was
permitted in a surprising decision after a three year
ban. Guidelines were issued but a detailed note on
how DTH will rollout has mysteriously not seen the
light of day, clearly showing the government's determination
to open it up. Uplinking and ownership of earth stations
by private broadcasters from Indian soil were opened
up around six months ago. Reports are that while Sun
TV and Eenadu have got clearance for their projects,
others have failed to do so. It imposed the government
advertising and programming code on all channels.
It yo-yoed between banning liquor advertising on television
and not banning it. It left the broadcasting bill
on the shelf and instead cooked up a Convergence Bill
which has seen so many revisions - and is likely to
see many more - that one does not know what it will
finally contain. It has been pushed back to the budget
The year also witnessed the emergence of women power
on the Indian television scene. The first Indian woman
TV executive arrived in the shape of former Ravina
Raj Kohli, the CEO of Nine Broadcasting India, and
former programming head of Sony. Then Ekta Kapoor,
one of the promoters of Balaji Telefilms, showed how
successful professional and assemblyline television
production can prove to be, when she had several winning
series on Star Plus, and several other channels. Additionally,
her company's share is sizzling the stock exchange.
Other shares fizzled out. Zee TV, Pentamedia (the
promoter of the much touted and highly overrated NumTV.com),
Crest, Creative Eye, TV18, Jain Studios, Padmalya
Telefilms, Cinevista Communications - drifted southwards.
The year 2000 also witnessed the launch of India's
first online television industry vortal - http://www.indiantelevision.com
(this site) - at the hands of Zee TV chairman Subhash
Chandra in late February. Other new television services
- especially regional language and niche services
- made their debuts: Zee TV unfurled its digital regional
language bouquet, R. Basu's Tara introduced regional
language channels, ditto with Eenadu TV, CMM, Aastha,
Prabhat, Replay TV, Sanskar,
Indiantelevision.com estimates that television advertising
in 2000 was in the region of Rs 24,000 million. Not
much growth over last year, but nevertheless growth
All in all a year that will lead to the industry moving
on to the next level of maturity.
Read more on the Year 2000 from
cable TV front
broadcasting legislation perspective