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NDTV scores big with entertainment channel

Shuchi Bansal  |  New Delhi 

MEDIA With in its kitty, determinedly chases the Rs 300 crore plus revenue target
About a year ago, Vikram Chandra, CEO, NDTV Networks, approached analysts in Mumbai to discuss the company's foray into entertainment.
"Most of them were amused and laughed at the project," recalls Chandra. Today, it is Chandra's turn to smirk. Within three weeks of its launch, NDTV Imagine, the 24-hour general entertainment channel (GEC) in Hindi, is the number three channel in the genre.
In the latest TAM report (4 years plus viewers in cable and satellite homes in the Hindi-speaking markets) the channel shares the number three slot with Sony, ahead of Sahara, Star One, Sab and 9X.
However, its weekly Gross Rating Points (GRPs) at 86 are higher than Sony's (80). The channel has also improved its weekly reach from 41 per cent to 43 per cent.
There's more good In a couple of days, advertisers such Coca Cola, Pepsi and Nokia will be on board. These will be in addition to Hindustan Unilever, Colgate, Idea, Tata Telecom, General Motors, Hero Honda and HP, among others, which are already advertising on
Company sources say that the channel has signed advertising deals worth Rs 60 crore and its year one ad revenue target is more than Rs 300 crore.
Harsh Rohatgi, executive vice president (revenue management and new ventures), NDTV Imagine, refuses to confirm the figure but says: "Advertisers are seeing the channel trajectory and the value that we offer. We will meet our revenue targets." The channel is budgeted to break even in the second year of operations.
According to the marketing head of a Delhi-based channel, has got its programming, distribution and PR right. Rivals, of course, disagree.
"The only two shows that are working are Ramayana and Dharamveer. That latter because they cashed in on the popularity of the young actor who played Prithiviraj Chauhan on Star Plus," says the Star India spokesperson.
Joy Chakrabarty, president and head of revenue at Zee Entertainment also says that only Ramayana seems to be working for NDTV Imagine and notching up a rating of 2.
experts say that the channel has kept away from the back-to-back melodramas which have caused viewer fatigue on most other channels.
"Ramayana is indeed a masterstroke since Indians are still interested in Ram. However, it remains to be seen if its magic will wear off," says a industry veteran.
NDTV Imagine CEO Sameer Nair says that the channel offers fresh though familiar programming. "We knew that we would not do a Baywatch. But we wanted the programming to be uplifting if not happy compared to the negative tenor which others adopt."
Nair is pleased with the GRPs of the channel achieved without showing any Hindi films. "Advertisers no longer pay a premium on re-runs. It is better to get viewers hooked on to programmes," he says.
There is no official word on the distribution cost incurred by the channel, but critics say that NDTV paid a hefty carriage fee (of nearly Rs 50 crore) to be seen in cable homes. The channel is available in 87 per cent of Star Plus homes, claim NDTV Imagine executives.
Will competition from the new channel pose a threat to the established players? "No. It is way, way behind us," says the Star spokesperson. Is listening?

First Published: Tue, February 19 2008. 00:00 IST