Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Wednesday, Mar 13, 2002
Asianet earth station by May
MUMBAI, March 12
ASIANET Communications Ltd's earth station being set up at Thiruvananthapuram at a cost of $1 million will be ready for uplinking in May 2002.
This move is expected to result in cost savings for the channel, currently uplinking from Chennai, according to Mr K. Madhavan, Managing Director, Asianet Communications Ltd. The cost for setting up the earth station is being entirely met through internal accruals, he said.
Asianet Communications Ltd, which owns and operates two channels - Asianet and Asianet Global - has resorted to cost-saving measures at a time when growth in advertising revenue has been sluggish. Besides, the entertainment company has also moved into film production.
Despite the sluggish growth in overall advertising spend, Asianet is expected to end the year with higher earnings. Revenue is slated to cross last year's Rs 48 crore.
"Asianet continues to be the number one channel among Malayalam channels. We are constantly working on strategies to maintain our lead position," he said.
"We are constantly reworking our programming mix, but it is largely inclined towards soaps and serials," said Mr Mohan Nair, Chief Operating Officer, Asianet Communications Ltd.
Among weekly serials, the Malayalam viewer preference is towards family social drama. This is primarily because women dominate television viewing in Kerala, he said.
The channel is trying to expand the revenue potential across the various time bands, Mr Nair said. The prime time band has expanded from 7-9 pm to 6.30-11 pm. "We have also expanded our afternoon band with our offerings," he said. The expansion of the prime time band includes programmes dedicated entirely to the viewers in West Asia.
Asianet's channels, which are currently free to air, have been able to generate adequate revenue despite the entry of a fourth Malayalam channel - Kairali.
"Competition has helped us to increase revenue," says Mr Nair. "We continue to remain at the lead position despite competition. This is indicative of our programming strength," Mr Madhavan said.
The popularity of the channel is reflected in the demand for participating in the live quiz programme titled Question Time launched recently.
"The response to this live quiz has been phenomenal. Both the cellular operators in the State - Escotel and BPL - have backed out because of their inability to cope with the volume of calls," Mr Nair said. The channel has now opted for BSNL.
The channel with a coverage of 1.5 million households in India is looking at the pay option, though not in the immediate future.
"We have to convert the channel to digital mode before we think of the pay option," Mr Madhavan said. Plans to go digital could materialise in the next 6-12 months. However, Asianet Global is in digital mode.
Asianet Communications is looking at the option of taking the channel pay internationally.
However, the programming mix will have to be changed to suit the international viewer preference, according to Mr Nair.
The mix would include films, general entertainment, news and current affairs programme but no serials.
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