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Writer: Noor Fathima Warsia - Monday, Feb 09,2009 6:51 AM

Turner in talks with NDTV for investment in entertainment business

The drastic loss in revenues and cash crunch in the economy is bleeding the media industry, much like it is hitting any other industry. At the same time, media observers have been saying time and again that slowdown could also be about consolidation and opportunity.

A combined impact of that is coming across in Time Warner’s broadcasting arm Turner reportedly engaging with NDTV for investment in the non-news or the entertainment businesses of the Indian media major. It is learnt that Turner is in advanced stages of discussions with NDTV Imagine, where the finance officers of the two companies are discussing monies involved in the expected transaction.

Even as there were no official comments forthcoming from NDTV or Turner on the development, sources close to the situation informed that the organisations were in the midst of serious evaluation of forming a relationship.

As is known, NDTV already has an alliance with NBC Universal for its entertainment arm NDTV Imagine – NBCU had acquired a 26 per cent stake in the company in January 2008 and had the option of increasing this stake to 50 per cent going forward.

Turner International, too, has a 50:50 JV with the Alva Brothers in India for the company, Real Global Broadcasting, which is set to launch its Hindi GEC Real in March 2009.

A senior source explained that it was still early in the NDTV-Turner discussions to ascertain which way the talks would go, and how the relations of the two companies would be impacted once the transaction was completed. The source said, “From the way things are right now, it really could be anything, but you can expect much greater synergies between the two businesses – Real Global and NDTV Imagine – on fronts such as ad sales.”

Internationally, NBC has been in the news for various reasons, where reportedly the business has got mixed feedback from General Electric’s stakeholders. There were speculations of GE selling NBC as well, but in a recent statement, NBC’s success rate at the Super Bowl made it a star in the GE stable again. Whether or not the international developments would have a direct impact on the conversation between Turner and NDTV in India is anyone’s guess, but Turner’s steps in the country is reiterating its faith in India’s media industry.

Turner International has been active in India as early as 1990, where the company began building presence in the international news domain, English movies business, the kids’ entertainment domain, and finally the general entertainment segment with channels like CNN, HBO, Cartoon Network, Pogo and the forthcoming channel Real. Turner also has a distribution tie-up with ZEEL in Zee Turner. Turner International, in partnership with Warner Bros, announced plans of a second English movie channel, which is now believed to be delayed.

Turner officials have been quoted as saying that India was the largest market for Turner International in the APAC region. Clearly, the international media major is eyeing more.

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