One of Kerala’s largest media companies, The Mathrubhumi Printing and Publishing Company (MPPCL), has finally taken the plunge into television.
It would be launching the first of its four channels on Wednesday, the high-definition Mathrubhumi News, a 24-hour Malayalam news channel, followed by Kappa, a music channel, on February 1. This foray into television, “completes the portfolio (of media businesses) for the group,” reckons Mohan Nair, chief executive officer, Mathrubhumi Television.
The Rs 389-crore (FY2011) MPPCL publishes Mathrubhumi, the second-largest circulated daily newspaper in the state after Malayala Manorama. Mathrubhumi brings a little over 85 per cent of MPPCL’s revenue. Its magazines, FM radio stations and TV content production company bring the rest, going by an April 2012 CRISIL note on the company. M P Veerendrakumar (chairman and managing director) and
P V Chandran own about 64 per cent of MPPCL. Veerendrakumar is also currently the president of the Socialist Janata (Democratic) Party, part of the ruling United Democratic Front coalition in the state.
The Rs 400-odd crore television market in Kerala is competitive. Roughly a dozen brands such as Asianet, Malayala Manorama, People TV (from the Communist Party of India-Marxist) and Jaihind (from the Congress party) fight for the Rs 100-crore news advertising pie. MPPCL’s older and bigger rival, the Rs 900 crore (FY2012) Malayala Manorama, entered the market in 2006.
Isn’t the 90-year-old company a little late? Nair agrees but says Mathrubhumi News comes with enough to differentiate itself. He points to the fact that it is the first high-definition (HD) news channel and to its ‘neutrality.’ Nevertheless, break-even will take longer, he agrees, because HD costs about 25 per cent more than the Rs 30-odd crore that a standard definition (SD) news channel would have. More important, since the four main cable operators in the state do not have the facility to offer HD, the advertiser will only pay for an SD audience, till digitisation happens. There are no pay revenues since Mathrubhumi News is, like all the others, a free-to-air channel.
The second channel, Kappa, would largely be about music shows in Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi and English, says Nair. “We are reverse-engineering the radio in a TV channel,” he says.