Indiantelevision.com Year end special: Television wrap up of the year 2000



The 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 session.

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 it was.

All in all a year that will lead to the industry moving on to the next level of maturity.


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