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Business – Time Warner arm may invest in NDTV Imagine

NDTV Imagine, the Hindi general entertainment channel owned by NDTV, may soon welcome a new investor, with NBC Universal exiting the venture. The new investor, according to The Guardian-owned website, ContentSutra, could be Turner Broadcasting, though other names have been doing the rounds, too.

Senior NDTV executives confirm the company has been keen to bring in a “large” media company as a partner in its entertainment business. The thinking earlier was that partner would be General Electric’s NBC, which last year paid $150 million for a 26 per cent equity in NDTV Networks, the company that owns NDTV’s non-news channels.

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As recently as last month, NDTV Imagine’s chief executive officer, Sameer Nair, said NBC would increase its stake.

But NBC decided not to. The bulk of the money it paid for its stake was spent on NDTV Imagine and the channels under the company. None is close to leadership on viewership, going by TAM data. There was also the issue of NBC’s ongoing merger talks with US cable giant, Comcast.

NDTV, though, was keen on a partner who would spend more. Therefore, earlier this month it bought out NBC for a reported $25 million, potentially opening the doors to a new partner.

Turner is the television arm of the world’s largest media company, the $47 billion New-York based Time Warner Corp.

“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 media & entertainment (M&E) space,” said Anshuman Misra, Turner International India, in an e-mail. “We do not comment on speculation,” said K V L Narayan Rao, NDTV’s CEO, in an e-mailed response.

Turner owns Cartoon Network and CNN, among other channels. Its Hindi general entertainment channel, Real, is owned in a joint venture with Miditech. It has been doing rather poorly, with a viewership share of less than one per cent in the first 10 months of 2009, according to TAM data. Buying a stake in NDTV Imagine probably gives Turner a real go at the Hindi general entertainment space. It would also help get Turner a presence on some complementary channels such as NDTV Lumiere and Lifestyle, though neither has quite set television screens on fire, going again by TAM data. So, getting a partner with deep pockets on the way to profitability is not a bad idea.

What this means for Turner’s relationship with Miditech is unclear. “Both the partners are collaborating on a way forward and remain committed to doing what is best for the business and for the Turner-Alva partnership. We continue to be partners and shareholders in Miditech, a growing TV program production business,” said Misra.

Meanwhile, after enforcing cost-cutting measures coupled with less spending, NDTV Ltd announced it had posted a consolidated net loss of Rs 85.5 crore for the quarter ended September 30, down 28.3 per cent from a net loss of Rs 119.4 crore posted in the same period last year.

However, NDTV’s consolidated revenue for the second quarter of the financial year grew by 17 per cent (year-on-year) to Rs 140.4 crore, compared to Rs 120.3 crore for Q2 of FY09.

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October 29, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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