Sun, Network18 to launch TV distribution entity


Sun Television Network and the Delhi-based Network18 Group today announced an alliance to launch a pan-India distribution entity, to be called Sun18. The aim is to make this new entity a dominant presence over the next two years in the Rs 16,000-crore pay television subscription market.

Two media powerhouses – the Network18 Group and (Kalanidhi Maran’s) the Sun Network – have formed a joint venture called Sun18, for the distribution of a total of 33 channels across multiple carriage platforms across India, including Cable, DTH, IPTV, HITS and MMDS (Wireless Cable). This also means that the distribution of Network18 channels is now going to be done by a single entity (details of how things have changed below), giving it more bargaining power; remember that Network18 recently announced plans to consolidate its TV channel businesses into a single entity (TV18). For the Sun18 alliance, two new companies will be formed:

This also marks the entry of Network18, presently the country’s largest news network, into TV distribution. Two new companies are being formed — Sun18 Media Services North Co, to be operated by Network18 to manage the non-South Indian markets, and Sun18 Media Services South Co, to be operated by the Sun Network to manage the South Indian market.

Sun18 North will be headed by Haresh Chawla (Group CEO of Network18 and Viacom18) as its CEO & Director. Rajesh Kamat (Group COO of Viacom18 & CEO – COLORS), will be the COO of Sun18 North. Sun18 South will be headed by Tony D’Silva as its CEO.

Sun18 will distribute 33 channels across all platforms in India via all networks including cable, DTH, IPTV, HITS and MMDS, via the Sun Network, those of Network18 and Viacom18 and the Disney India Network.

The Sun18 bouquet, claimed the two partners, would be the the highest GRP (a measure of viewing audience) delivering bouquet in Indian television space. “The option to aggregate third party channels is also one of the opportunities this venture will seek to explore.”

Sun18 will end Network18’s deal with STARDEN, as its group channels — CNN-IBN, CNBC-TV18, CNBC-Awaaz, IBN-7 and IBN-Lokmat — will be distributed by Sun18.

The distribution JV also ends Viacom18’s deal with TheOneAlliance, the Sony-Discovery joint venture which distributes channels. Sun18 also gets to distribute the Viacom18 channels — Colors, MTV, Nick and Vh1. The new JV will also handle the Disney channels — Disney Channel, Disney XD and Hungama TV.

Sun18 will have India’s largest multilingual network comprising Sun TV, KTV, Sun News, Sun Music, Chutti TV, Adithya, Gemini TV, Teja TV, Gemini News, Gemini Music, Navvulu TV, Kushi TV, Surya TV, Kiran TV, Udaya TV, Udaya Movies, U2, Udaya Varthegalu, Ushe TV and Chintu TV.

Said Raghav Bahl, founder-head of the Network18 group: “In Sun TV, we’ve found a partner that not only complements our own strengths, but is also as ambitious to change the landscape of the Indian broadcasting industry.”

Said Kalanithi Maran, chairman & managing Director, of Sun: “This is being created to leverage our very successful television brands across the country…the (alliance) will enable us to continue to thrive in an ever-changing media landscape.”

Sun has 20 TV channels, with an estimated reach of 95 million households in India, besides viewership in 27 other countries. It also operates 45 FM radio stations, four magazines and two mass circulation Tamil dailies. Network18 has interests in TV, print, internet, filmed entertainment and mobile content, among other businesses. Its channels are in more than one language. It also recently launched Forbes India, the first local edition of a foreign news magazine title.

Said Haresh Chawla: “This unique alliance will bridge one of the widest gaps that has existed in the Indian television space for long – the gap between the South and the rest-of-India markets.”

A Mumbai-based media analyst said the JV will allow both Sun Network and Network18 to have more clarity over the distribution of their channels and it is a positive for both companies. In intra-day trading, Network18 and Sun Network shares jumped 7.2 per cent and 2.5 per cent, respectively, on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) after the companies made the announcement. Network18 and Sun finally closed up 4.6 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively, on the BSE.


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