Purvita Chatterjee

Mumbai, Dec. 21

THE Rathikant Basu-promoted Tara TV is planning to tap the North-eastern markets by extending its channel brand to cater to this region.

Mr Rathikant Basu, Chairman, Broadcast Worldwide, told Business Line, "There is a business plan and we are looking at the North-eastern States with intentions of starting a channel. We have been approaching TV producers and software providers to start a channel for the region, which comprises six States."

At present, there is still no channel catering to the region and apart from Broadcast Worldwide, there are a few more players who have evinced interest in starting a local channel to cater to the region. "We should be able to start the channel by next year and that is when we intend going in for an IPO to gather funds for the project," says Mr Basu.

Highlighting the benefits of running a regional channel, Mr Basu says, "For regional television, the costs are low in terms of talent, production and equipment. Besides satellite costs are also coming down." Besides, the channel also has the advantage of creating its content at studios owned by its company.

In the recent past, Tara TV spun off its operations by floating two channels for music and news. Explaining the need to float two separate channels, Mr Basu says, "Ad revenues would go up substantially simply because there will be more airtime to be sold."

Apart from Tara Music and Tara News, the Bengali channel brand has recently been extended as Tara International to cater to the Bengali speaking community in the US. "Since we did not have the capacity to take 2-3 channels to the US, there was a demand for a composite Bengali channel and so this October we decided to create Tara International to cater to the international market beginning with the US. Now we have also applied for a license in Canada," adds Mr Basu.

With rising distribution costs, Tara international has a limited presence right now but the channel expects to tap the European countries since the UK is the biggest market for Bengali television. "We are expecting substantial revenue growth at 25 per cent next year for Tara International," states Mr Basu.

While Tara International has recently being distributed as a separate channel in the overseas markets, most of its channels are already available on the DTH platform. In the past, it has tied up with Ten Inc, a New York-based DTH company to beam its programmes in North America. While for the countries in West Asia, it has signed on another DTH company- ADD (Arab Digital Distribution).

Expecting overall ad revenues growth between 10-15 per cent, the media company realises the limitations of growth in this space. It has been tapping into other revenue streams such as subscription and syndication revenues and also satellite radio. However, its revenues in the radio space have been dwindling. Being the licensee for WorldSpace radio for the eastern region, the channel has not being able to make a breakthrough with its brand Radio Tara.

"We have been a slow starter in eastern India and satellite radio has not exactly taken off. However, we continue to add strength to the WorldSpace bouquet with our radio channel," says Mr Basu.

Meanwhile, Mr Rupert Murdoch continues to hold a 6 per cent stake in the company, while Mr Basu himself retains his 19 per cent stake. Sterling Infotech holds about 40 per cent while the rest is split between the FIIs and small investors.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 22, 2005)
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