RCom to launch television channel by year-end (Roundup)

August 20th, 2008 - 9:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Ahmedabad/Chennai/New Delhi, Aug 20(IANS) The Anil Ambani-headed Reliance Communications (RCom), which ushered in its nationwide direct-to-home service Wednesday, will launch its own television channel before the year-end, a top company official said. “In the next three months, we’ll have our own television channel. We are going into both broadcasting and distribution,” RCom group head for brand and marketing Sanjay Behl told reporters in Ahmedabad during the launch of Reliance Big TV, a direct-to-home (DTH) service.

In fact, Wednesday’s nationwide launch of Big TV marked the beginning of RCom’s proposed foray into television broadcasting.

“With the media and entertainment industry witnessing explosive growth, we decided to create a new paradigm. It had to be big and surprising in its innovation. And thus the Reliance Big TV DTH service was born,” Behl said.

Once RCom starts its own channel, it would be offered on Big TV’s DTH platform as well.

In Chennai, another senior official told reporters that the company may look at carriage fee as one of the revenue streams in future.

“Currently, we are not charging the broadcasters any carriage fee. But looking forward, it could be one of the several revenue streams for Reliance Big TV,” said Mahesh Prasad, president of the company’s applications, solutions and content division during the launch in Tamil Nadu.

Carriage fee is paid by television broadcasters to multi-system operators and direct-to-home (DTH) players to beam their channels on their network.

Prasad said the average revenue per user is expected to be around Rs.250-Rs.300 and when value added services are rolled out the figure will move upwards.

In Delhi, where the service will be launched Thursday, another top official said the company would go for a massive advertising campaigns across the country.

“We will set up almost 10,000 hoardings and 80,000 signages within three days of the launch across the country,” Big TV DTH chief executive Arun Kapoor told reporters.

Within two weeks of the launch, there will be 500 advertisements in print with ads varying from half page to full front page so as to register maximum visibility, Kapoor said.

According to Behl, the company would rope in the “biggest” television stars to endorse its campaign. “We have already bought 15,000 spots on television for the next three weeks,” he added.

Reliance Big TV will use the ICC Champions Trophy beginning next month to showcase the new service as Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani (ADA) Group - to which RCom belongs - is one of the sponsors.

Though no official disclosed financial numbers, going by the scale at which Reliance Big TV plans to operate this business - five million set top boxes have been ordered and the mega media campaign - the investment and the operating costs are expected to be significant.

Company officials declined to put a time frame for the venture to break even and the cost of acquiring a customer.

The service, starting Rs.1,490, which includes a three-month subscription but excluding the Rs.1,000 installation charge, will be available from some 100,000 outlets in 6,500 towns in the country.

The group has also set up a customer service cell that can handle over 50,000 calls a day, Kapoor said.

Big TV is the fifth entrant in the nine-million private DTH subscribers market after Dish TV, Tata Sky, Sun Direct and Doordarshan’s DD Direct Plus.

“By the end of first quarter next year, Big TV will increase its number of channels to 300-350 with eight to ten special interactive offerings and gaming channels,” Kapoor added.

Behl said the launch of 32 exclusive movie channels in English, Hindi and regional languages would mean virtually converting the television set of subscribers into a 32 screen, 24-hour “multiplex”.

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