NDTV Imagine launched in Middle East

June 19th, 2008 - 7:32 pm ICT by IANS  

By Aroonim Bhuyan
Dubai, June 19 (IANS) NDTV Imagine, the Hindi general entertainment channel of India’s NDTV group, was launched for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) market here Thursday. This is the second international market the channel has targeted following its launch in Britain earlier this year.

“This is the first free-to-air Hindi entertainment channel to be launched in the Middle East,” Sameer Nair, chief executive officer (CEO) of NDTV Imagine, said at a press conference here.

“Hindi general entertainment has generally skewed towards soap operas but we are doing different programming and will be catering to an audience of the 6-60 age group,” he said.

In this connection, he cited programmes like “Nach Ve with Saroj Khan” in which the Bollywood choreographer Saroj Khan teaches participants dance moves and an upcoming programme called “Junoon - Kuchh Kar Dikhaane Ka” in which three teams representing three genres of music - Sufi, folk songs and Bollywood music - will compete.

Nair said edutainment programmes would also be a part of the channel’s programming.

“One such example is ‘Angrezi Mein Kahte Hain’ in which Shernaz Patel teaches viewers how to communicate effectively in English,” the channel’s CEO said.

Asked whether the channel was planning any programme on the lines of STAR Plus-aired “Kaun Banega Crorepati” (KBC) in the infotainment genre, Nair, the man behind that hugely successful quiz show on Indian television, told IANS: “Of course, we are planning infotainment. In fact, we are planning a very different kind of game show towards the end of the year.”

Bollywood director Karan Johar, who is also the creative consultant and brand ambassador for NDTV Imagine, said the channel has heralded “the return of family entertainment”.

“Our promise is to entertain and delight audiences with interesting programming concepts,” he said.

Asked whether he would be hosting any talk shows similar to “Koffee with Karan” that was aired on STAR World, he said: “I may host a programme next year. It will be a new show with a different format. There will be elements of Bollywood in it with possible interaction with a live audience.”

Johar, meanwhile, will co-host a musical show called “Say Shaava Shaava” with Simi Garewal to be aired on the channel soon.

Launched Jan 21 this year, NDTV Imagine has climbed to the third spot among Indian general entertainment channels, Nair claimed.

The MENA launch is part of the channel’s strategy for international expansion to cater to the Indian diaspora.

According to a company statement, 10 million residents in the Gulf are expatriates hailing from the subcontinent, mainly from India and Pakistan.

Asked if the channel was planning any programme that caters to the NRIs in the Gulf, Nair said: “As of now our programmes will be produced from India. But I am a firm believer in localised content and hope to have Gulf-based productions soon.”

When pointed out that the Bollywood programmes were hugely popular among the Arab audience, Nair said: “Our NDTV Showbiz, which will be launched in mid-July, will carry a lot of Bollywood films and programmes on the business side of Bollywood.”

To a question on the funding for different projects of NDTV Imagine, Nair said: “We generally do not reveal our financials. But I can say that (American media and entertainment company) NBC Universal is making significant investments in our company.”

NBC Universal, partly owned by the GE conglomerate, had bought a 30 percent stake in NDTV’s Britain subsidiary early this year.

NDTV Imagine will be available to the Gulf audience on the Pehla cable TV platform.

“It will be later available on Du and E-vision also,” Nair said.

It is the second channel from the NDTV stable to be launched in the region after NDTV Arabia, a dedicated news channel launched in October last year for the MENA region.

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