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Business – Climax To NDTV Imagine Swayamvar: Time Warner Close To Buying Nearly 90% Stake

Turner Broadcasting, a unit of Time Warner (NYSE: TWX), is close to acquiring a “very high level of holding” in general entertainment channel NDTV Imagine, according to a person familiar with the development, who asked not to be named. Turner could buy an 80-90% stake in the GEC, the person said. Currently, employee stakeholding in NDTV Imagine Ltd is close to 10%. It’s unclear if NDTV will exit completely and if it does, whether the channel will be rebranded. Under Indian regulations, there is no cap on foreign direct investment in the entertainment broadcasting business.

General entertainment is an estimated Rs2,500 crore market and attracts bulk of the Rs8,000 crore annual ad spends on television in India.

An NDTV spokesperson declined comment. “It is Turner Broadcasting’s policy not to comment on speculation. India is a critical market for Turner and we are continually exploring business opportunities in the M&E space,” Anshuman Misra, managing director, Turner International India Pvt. Ltd, wrote in an email response. NDTV Imagine CEO Sameer Nair could not be reached.

NDTV Imagine is currently part of NDTV Networks Plc., a London-incorporated unit that holds the group’s non-news businesses. Apart from the GEC, NDTV Networks also owns NDTV Convergence (digital unit), NDTV Lifestyle (Good Times), NDTV Labs and a 50% stake in NGen (a BPO unit with Genpact). NDTV Imagine also owns a 51% stake in Alliance Lumiere Ltd, which broadcasts a world cinema channel and also has a small theatrical and home video business in the same genre.

Two weeks ago, NDTV said it was buying back a 26% stake from NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) that the latter had bought in May 2008 for $150 million. We had reported then that Time Warner and Malaysia’s Astro were in talks to replace NBCU as an investor in the non-news business.

For the week ended 17 October, NDTV Imagine had 114 gross rating points (GRPs) according to data from TAM Media Research. It trailed Colors (314 GRPs), Star Plus (241 GRPs), Zee TV (232 GRPs) and Sony (NYSE: SNE) TV (165 GRPs). Colors is broadcast by an equal stakes JV between Time warner’s global rival Viacom (NYSE: VIA) and India’s Network18 Group, while Star Plus is owned by News Corp (NYSE: NWS).

If the deal closes, this will be a second attempt of sorts for Turner, which invested in GEC Real through a JV with Alva Brothers Entertainment (promoters of production house Miditech). Real, which launched in March 2009, has been a spectacular flop, clocking just 2 GRPs (for the week ended 17 October) at the bottom of the charts in a 12-channel market.

While operations have been scaled back at Real, the channel’s future is unclear. CEO Sunil Lulla was not immediately available for comment. “The joint venture partners, Turner and Alva Brothers Entertainment, are reassessing the business plans for their JV company, RGBPL (Real Global Broadcasting Pvt. Ltd). These plans will be announced as soon as they are confirmed,” Misra wrote

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October 29, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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