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Rewind 2009: Television – of new leaders, new partnerships, new challenges

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Rewind 2009: Television – of new leaders, new partnerships, new challenges

In its first year, the Indian Premier League got written about significantly for just the idea – in the second season, the IPL created more news with uncertainty surrounding it even a few days before the matches. BCCI had unresolved issues with the broadcaster Multi Screen Media and a new deal had to be forged before the relation could be taken forward, and the General Elections then forced IPL out of India, and the matches took place in South Africa. A significant part of the first quarter of 2009 was filled with these conversations, interspersed with Turner Broadcasting and Alva Brothers bold decision to launch their Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC) Real in the year.

Even as the Hindi GEC genre was filled with its own sizzling developments, the one development that made history was the emergence of a new order in Hindi GECs. There have been instances in the past when Star News and India TV had displaced Aaj Tak to be the number one channel in the Hindi news genre, and given the genre history, that was no small feat.

Newcomer 9XM pushed MTV and Channel [v] lower in the music genre order in 2008 and that generated buzz as well. The year 2009 saw other genre leaders like Cartoon Network moving lower down in the order with channels like Hungama and Nick taking over. But it was nothing compared to Colors ending the nine-year reign of Star Plus in the Hindi general entertainment genre.

STAR India’s restructuring was another important development in the year for the reason that this was the first time that News Corp created a News Corp equivalent in India, and STAR India CEO Uday Shankar was empowered with the responsibility of looking at all News Corp interest in India.

Even as most of the year was dominated by the Star-Colors-Zee conversation, the last quarter of the year saw an interesting interplay of three developments – two months after Real’s launch, Turner and Alva Brothers realised that Real was not what either wanted. Turner explored other options and this meant a deal between Turner and NDTV, where the former took charge of Imagine. The only other deal earlier in the year that had created any buzz was Bloomberg partnering with UTV in the English business news space.

The pause button on Real meant Sunil Lulla leaving the company and heading back to BCCL, but BCCL had a different set of plans. The media conglomerate clubbed all Times television – news and entertainment – under Times TV Group and Lulla was given charge of that. That left the Alva Brothers’ side of the tale, and if industry buzz is to be believed, while Real will resurface in the first quarter of 2010, it would not be in the same partnership structure as it is in right now.

Add that Sun Network restructuring and consequent adding of two verticals in the south, some more news channels launches and a few more content controversies and that summarises television in 2009.

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