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Zoom TV and other upcoming TV channels from the Times Of India group 

The airspace is getting crowded again. Media giant Times is entering the signal street with three of its channels. As the first one - Zoom TV - gets ready to go on air, Dancewithshadows starts a running commentary. 

BY JM

 

 
Times Television is back. After a long spell of wandering in the wilderness, Bennet, Coleman & co, the country's biggest publisher, is spreading wings and taking off to the airwaves. The company's television is venture ready to go on air any time now. For those who came in late, here is the feed. 

The first to be beamed from Vineet Jain's media empire will be Zoom TV, which is set to reach Indian households. A perfunctory inauguration of Zoom TV channel  has already been done, but the signals are yet to reach us. If Zoom sounds like a TV  channel set up by wildlife photographers, you are wrong, like I was. Expect Bombay Times on telly. On Zoom TV, most probably, there will be fashion, lifestyle, events, glam and glitz and all other ingredients making the Bombay Times Masala Dosa. It will be non-fiction (no 'K' Seials like Kkusum and Ku Klux Klan) and will target urban viewers. 

Observers expect it will be a mix of lifestyle and current events programmes already dished out by several television channels in India. Zooms TV's content will be 60% in-house and the rest from outside. Most of the programmes will be in Hindi or Hinglish, a language spoken by those Bombay-born with poor command over English. Zoom TV's chief operating officer is Apurva Purohit, who recently quit Zee for the Bennet Coleman embrace. Zoom TV currently has 90 employees on board. 

After the lifestyle channel will come the spiritual channel from Times TV, slated for launch sometime next year. The guiding philosophy seems simple. After the spiritual aura of an alcoholic nature in one channel (Zoom TV) viewers may switch to another channel that deals with divine spirits. Vineet Jain's thinking is eminently laudable. It won't be a run-of-the-mill spiritual channel like Aastha or Sanskaar. The TV channel is being planned as a "mind, body and soul" channel. Since we would have already seen enough of body in Zoom, the viewers are expected to be conditioned for 'mind' and 'soul' in the second channel. Commendable business thought. 

The last will be a business channel. Given Bennet Coleman's grasp of business, we feel this has the biggest chance of success. There is only one pure business TV channel in India - CNBC. And business viewers stick to CNBC India due to a lack of choice. Lately, NDTV too has made attempts to woo some those viewers by infusing oodles of business news into their daily programming. NDTV's Arnab Goswami has already been brought into the Time sgroup's new business channel. The business channel will be headed by Partho Dasgupta, Times group guy. There is also talk that later, some foreign news TV network may be roped in as a partner. 

If Zoom TV becomes a success, it is expected that the formula will be immediately replicated by all the 'K' channels. There is little exclusivity that such programmes can offer. To take a print comparison, Bombay Times, HT City and Telegraph City all look just the same. If the mastheads are removed, they are all birds of identical beaks. A similar fate may await Zoom TV. 

None of Times TV channels will be free-to-air (What did you expect!). Times will be bundling them together for better marketing synergies. Bennet Coleman is expecting its TV venture to reach the entire size of its business in 10 years. Mind you, Times group annual turnover currently is around Rs 1300 crore. The Times TV business will be headquartered in Mumbai. 

Will the Rs 300 crore being pumped in by the Times group for Times TV pay off? We are in one-and-a-half minds. There has always been little to write home about the print media's TV forays in the country. Few have even ventured into TV, despite its huge advertising revenue potential. Media bigwigs like Indian Express, Hindustan Times, Hindu, Malayala Manorama have all stayed off TV, concentrating on their bread-and-butter businesses. Business India dabbled in TV a while ago, the venture sank, bleeding Business India accounts for years to come. Business Standard's telly dreams too came a cropper. The only two notable successes have been the Eenadu group's launch of the ETV bouquet of regional channels and Murasoli's Sun TV network. Lately, Telegraph newspaper picked a stake in Star India, but Aveek Sarkar does not seem as gung-ho as Vineet Jain in telly tattle. Let's wait till the channels go on air for a detailed analysis! 

BY JM


God save the Malayalee

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