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UTV’s Screwvala to launch kids channel

01-March-2004
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UTV’s Screwvala to launch kids channel

UTV Software Communications founder-promoter Ronnie Screwvala is launching a kids channel through a separate company, in which he will hold a majority 51 per cent stake. UTV will hold the remaining 49 per cent equity. The new company will be called United Home Entertainment (UHE).

UHE proposes to invest Rs 75 crore in the project. “The funding requirement will be around that amount and we hope to break even in three years. We plan to launch the channel between July-September this year,” said UTV director of operations and finance Ronald D’Mello.

A part of the equity stake in the kids channel will be offered to investors through a private placement. The company is in talks with investors. With the private placement, the equity structure of the company will change but Mr Screwvala will continue to remain the dominant partner. The company is in talks with STAR India and Sony-Discovery’s One Alliance to become a part of their distribution bouquet. “We are not in talks with Zee Telefilms as they have Turner’s two kids channels Cartoon Network and Pogo in their bouquet,” Mr D’Mello said.

Currently, STAR and Sony don’t have a kid’s channel in their bouquet. Both companies are trying to get the Walt Disney channel, which is planning to enter India.

STAR also is considering launching its own kid’s channel.

UHE will have a 90-member team with separate content, marketing and distribution heads. The channel’s advertising sales will be handled by UTV. Already Shalini Rawla, who worked with Contract Advertising, has been appointed as vice president of marketing in UHE.

Why is the channel being launched through a separate company? “We are doing it outside UTV and with fresh equity. There will be no pressure on UTV, which will continue to focus primarily on its content business. UTV is investing in the venture to exploit its synergies in content and airtime sales,” Mr D’Mello said.

The channel will have Hindi content, aimed at the age group of 4-18 years. “We will be a multi-genre channel airing movies, serials and localised content for kids,” said Purnendu Bose, COO, new ventures, UTV. The company will also source international formats, concepts, shows and movies which it will localise into Hindi, he added.

UHE has appointed AC Nielsen to conduct a survey. The preliminary findings show that kids love watching cartoons in the age group of 4-7 years and are gender neutral. Boys between 8-12 years tend to watch sports, adventure and action programmes, while girls prefer serials and soaps. The 13-15-year-olds tend to have less exposure to cartoons while the 16-18-year-olds can be targeted after 8 pm, he said.

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