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Private news stations beam into North-East

Shuchi Bansal  |  New Delhi 

MEDIA: Action in the television business heats up in the Assam region.
Did you know that the television monitoring agency TAM does not measure TV viewership in the northeastern states? Well, that may change soon as the North-East becomes the hub of broadcasting activity.
Launched recently, Live is the North-East's second private channel in the regional language. The Assamese cum English channel has been set up by Pride East Entertainments, a Guwahati-based company which is said to enjoy the backing of the state government.
Two more news channels "" AM (Assam Meghalaya) TV and Brahmaputra TV "" are also in the pipeline. Media industry experts say that these channels are funded by local businessmen and builders.
The new channels will compete with NE TV, the player entrenched in the market since 2002. It is operated by Positiv Television and has a significant viewership in the region.
"It's been a tough market but the channel is now profitable", claims NE TV's CMD Manoranjana Singh. Little surprise then that Positiv Television also launched an entertainment channel titled NE HiFi two years ago followed by NE Bangla.
The new players see a potential in the region as the market is under-served, feel media experts. Though the numbers on the total television advertising in the region are not available, according to media industry estimates, Assam alone generated Rs 75 crore in a year in print advertising.
TV industry sources say that NE TV makes about Rs 50 lakh to 60 lakh a month in advertising. "With the entry of News Live, the spends in the market should double," says News Live CEO Caushiq Bezboruah.
Bezboruah says that the channel has the "look and feel" of a national news channel which has been designed by VDO, a US based company. The TV studios have also been designed by an American company, Inergi Broadcast.
Predictably, Bezboruah claims that the channel has been well received since its launch last month. "After all, it is owned and managed by the local people," he claims.
Of course, there is no independent body that can offer viewership or channel share figures for players in the North-East. But NE TV's Singh is not worried about competition. "We are anti-establishment and are popular among the viewers for our quality content," she says.
Yet, Singh is clever not to put all her eggs in the same basket. She is eyeing other regions for growth. A Bhojpuri channel Hamar TV is on the cards. Focus TV, a national channel for women is a month away.
In about three months, she is launching a metro channel for Hyderabad. Singh's expansion plan has been boosted by the advertiser response to her news channel which has Hindustan Unilever, Cadbury and Amul on board. NE TV is also available on DTH platforms such as Dish TV and Tata Sky.
Now that the action is heating up in the North-East, TAM CEO LV Krishnan says that the agency will start monitoring the region very soon.

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First Published: Wed, February 27 2008. 00:00 IST