India's premier newspaper publishing company, Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd (BCCL), is actively scouting for a strategic equity investor for its proposed business news channel to be launched in the middle of 2005.
A source in the company confirmed that BCCL was looking for an equity partner for its satellite news channel. To accommodate the new partner, the group is said to be in the process of floating a new company to run its broadcasting business. Currently its sole television channel, Zoom, operates under BCCL.
The group has held talks with two foreign news agencies for a stake in the business channel. A strategic investor was a key element in the strategy since without a partner, the business channel would not be launched, said the source.
There are also reports that BCCL is looking for a buyer for Zoom, the three-month-old fashion and lifestyle channel. BCCI's television division's chief operating officer Apurva Purohit, however, said: "There is no plan to close down or to sell Zoom. Its viewership and the number of advertisers on the channel are growing."
But the source confirmed that there was a management rethink on the future of Zoom. With few foreign investors interested in locking in their capital in a lifestyle channel, BCCL is said to have recognised that Zoom is a very high cost operation and all fresh investments in the channel have been frozen.
Media audit company Spatial Access Solution estimates that the channel earned Rs 75 lakh till November 2004. The cost of running the channel is said to be nearly Rs 30 crore a year.
Launched at the end of September 2004, Zoom was first off the block from BCCL's Rs 300 crore television venture spearheaded by the company's managing director, Vineet Jain.
When asked if a strategic investor is being roped in for the business channel, Purohit said "the situation is very fluid and there is nothing to be said now. All I can say is that work is going on in full force to launch the business channel in 2005. For the business news channel 20 to 25 people have already been recruited and the facilities at the Kamla Mills compound are getting ready."
This is BCCL second attempt to enter the television business. In the early 1990s it was keen to partner Star TV but Subhash Chandra clinched the deal.