BBC World is changing its business strategy for South Asia, including India. From June 15, 2006, the news channel will be adopting a subscription based model as against the current free-to-air model.
When asked what had prompted the change in the model, Jeff Hazell, Director, Distribution and Business Development, BBC World, said, “It is not a drastic overnight decision. After launching on analogue mode 15 years back in 1991, we moved to the digital mode five years back. And now we think this is the right time to adopt a paid model as the Indian television market has evolved incredibly in the last three years.”
However, Hazell denied that the decision had anything to do with the government’s decision not to allow foreign news channels carrying India-centric advertisements in the Indian territory, terming the two developments as ‘purely coincidental’.
When asked about the strong rumour that BBC was planning an India-centric channel in partnership with an Indian company, Hazell said, “We neither deny or confirm such rumours. We are obviously looking at different opportunities, and when we think we are ready to say something, we will do so.”
BBC World’s global competitor, CNN, has already entered the Indian market partnering with GBN to launch CNN-IBN news channel. When asked whether in such a scenario it was not the right time for BBC to come out with an India-centric channel, Hazell replied, “I think CNN’s approach is interesting where they have a brand franchise agreement. I think this is not different from the CNBC approach some years back. I am not sure whether we will follow a similar model. We’d rather try to understand the market and do whatever is appropriate.”
With the channel going paid way, it has to come out of Prasar Bharati’s DTH platform, which is free to air. Asked how it would affect BBC World’s reach in India, Amit Upadhyay, Head, Distribution and Business Development, South Asia, said, “BBC World is currently available to 15 million households in India, which does not include the number of DD Direct Plus. So, we don’t see it affecting our reach in India in any way.”
On the way forward in India for BBC World, Upadhyay said, “We will look at some more Indian programmings like the recent Emerging Giants season and keep on concentrating on Indian viewers.”