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Sananda TV to tap Bengali market

Bapun Raz

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Sananda TV, the long-awaited Bengali
entertainment channel from media house ABP Ltd,
will be launched on Monday as it seeks to carve out
a share for itself in a crowded market. ABP publishes Anandabazar Patrika, the Bengali
newspaper with the widest readership, The
Telegraph and Businessworld. It also operates Star
News, a Hindi news channel, in a joint venture—
Media Content and Communications Services India
Pvt. Ltd (MCCS)—with Star India Pvt. Ltd. Sananda TV, backed solely by ABP with an
investment of R150 crore, is based out of the
company’s Prafulla Sarkar Street building. Star India’s Star Jalsha is the leader in the Bengali
entertainment market with a share of nearly 42%,
according to TAM Media Research data. Zee Bangla
from the Zee group follows with a 31% share. Other
entertainment channels in the language include
ETV Bangla, Mahuaa Bangla and Rupashi Bangla. Sananda TV will fight for a share in the estimated R
600 crore Bengali television advertising market that
is growing at 30-40% a year. The launch of Sananda TV wouldn’t affect Star’s
relationship with ABP, said Uday Shankar, chief
executive of Star India. “Why should it affect us?
You can’t speculate on our relationship going
awry,” he said. MCCS runs two other regional
language news channels—Star Ananda in Bengali and Star Majha in Marathi. Madhumita Chattopadhyay, chief executive of
Sananda TV, declined to comment on the
relationship with Star India, but said the two
companies were partners in news and not
entertainment. “Promos of our channel are running on Star
Ananda. In Bengali GECs (general entertainment
channels), Star Jalsha has revolutionized the genre
with its modern shows for urban audiences and
not just the semi-rural and rural population,” said
Chattopadhyay, who edits Sananda, ABP’s Bengali magazine targeted at women. She is also the
business head for other magazines in the group,
namely Desh, Anandamela, Unish-Kuri and
Anandalok. Sananda TV will start with three hours of original
content—six fiction shows—to be aired daily from
7pm onwards. The shows will be “high-decibel
entertainers that will subtly touch social issues”,
Chattopadhyay said. The GEC, which will be 24x7, has also acquired a
library of 50 Bengali films. In the next 8-10 months, Sananda TV plans to have
11 shows with roughly six-eight hours of original
content. Sananda TV is also working on a talent show based
on a format from Fremantle India Television
Productions Pvt. Ltd that will be hosted by Bengali
film star Prosenjit Chatterjee, Chattopadhyay said,
without giving details. Star Jalsha expanded the market when it entered
the segment in 2008, said Sanjay Diwakar, an
associate vice-president at Ernst and Young India Pvt. Ltd. “There was a trend shift with Star Jalsha. The content and competition that the channel
brought in was immense,” he said. Star Jalsha’s programming addresses a younger
audience than other channels, according to Kevin
Vaz, president of advertising and sales, Star India. Sananda TV’s entry will enhance competition and
offer more content and variety to viewers, Diwakar
said. “As we speak, there is room for at least 14
more such channels.” It won’t be easy for new entrants to make inroads,
according to senior executives at rival channels. “They will find it tough to change the viewing
habits of people attuned to some of the existing
channels,” said Joy Chakraborthy, an executive
director at Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, which
runs Zee Bangla. High distribution costs, too, are a
hurdle. “In order to get a decent placement, a channel has to pay R30 crore a year, not a small
amount for a new channel. Plus, there is a huge
content cost to compete adequately,” he said. Rupashi and Mahuaa invested heavily in marketing
and content, but are yet to gain adequate
viewership, he said. Star India’s Vaz concurs. “Mahuaa Bangla launched with (film star) and a football-based show featuring (Brazilian footballer) Ronaldinho. But most
channels haven’t made rapid inroads,” said Vaz. HT Media Ltd, which publishes Mint, competes with
ABP in some markets.



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