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Monday, October 23, 2000



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Watch out for the festivity

Menka Shivdasani

The action always hots up as the festive season gets underway. Overseas visitors, trade fairs, celebrations of various kinds... October to December is when everything happens, all at once.

Cartoon Network has had the strongest reason to celebrate; it has just completed five years in India, surviving, and indeed thriving, in what must be one of the most complex markets in the world. Ian Diamond, Senior Vice-President and General Manager, Ca rtoon Network, was here, and he spoke of how competition had increased in these five years, but how they intended to remain on top of it (He was particularly dismissive of Nickelodeon!).

Ian also spoke of the impact of technology, and plans for a new Web site that would give the channel an edge, especially when issues like inadequate bandwidth were ironed out here. The dedicated India Web-site will allow kids to communicate with toon sta rs and will include Web Premiere Toons, Scrap Book, downloadable games, e-cards and a customised homepage.

There are lots of others plans to grow the channel beyond the metros, and this November/December, a Cartoon Network Sound Machine will travel to Kochi, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Indore, Pune and Vadodara. The sound machine, a bus, will be used for on-ground ev ents. To further develop audiences, Cartoon Network will launch a new programming block in November, Boomerang, giving viewers a trip down animation history with stars of the 1960s and 1970s. Boomerang launches on November 19 and airs every Sunday at 10 a.m. for an hour. For the first four weeks, it will feature a special question and phone 50 children each week during Boomerang Hour for the answers.

Everyone is getting onto the Web-site bandwagon these days. MTV India was talking about one more than a year ago, at the time when the Channel [V] site was making its mark. Now has finally been launched, and what a day they chose -- Friday t he 13th! The site, which is in partnership with, has five channels -- My MTV, Music, Movies, Campus Life and Romance and Sexuality.

MTV promises lots of gags and games, complete with mascots that ``pop up and offer unsolicited advice, comments or simply raise a stink!'' Plus, there's the MTV Yantra, which allows information to be customised and downloaded to the desktop. There will a lso be a Slam Book, which encourages users to make friends. If the site delivers all that it promises it will certainly provide stiff competition to Channel [V].

In these last 10 days or so, there have also been two major trade fairs in Mumbai. The first of these, the Media Mall, focused on convergence, and saw presentations by Mark Young of the BBC and Rathikant Basu of Broadcast Worldwide, among others. Partici pants included, which has plans for the launch of voice and video mail, taking e-mail to a whole new dimension. The event was held between October 12-14.

Following closely on its heels was Broadcast India 2000, from October 19-21, which included a technical symposium. The equipment and technology on display spanned quite a gamut, covering television, radio, video, film, cable, satellite, animation and bro adband. There was also a presentation on the creation of digital visual effects for movies and television by Ramesh Meer of The FX Factory, one of the biggest names in the business.

Even as I write this, news has just come in of the Confederation of Indian Industry's ``Media `Un'convention'', to be held in Chennai on November 3-4. Billed as the ``first ever comprehensive media event in India'', it will feature presentations by a gal axy of key players, including Subhash Chandra, who is Chairman, CII National Committee on Media, apart from being Chairman, Zee Networks, and Kiran Karnik, Managing Director, Discovery Channel.

October to December is also the time that most people choose to visit India. Sony Entertainment Television will have three special visitors later this month -- Mel Harris, President and Chief Operating Officer, Sony Pictures, Bedi A. Singh, Executive Vic e-President and Chief Financial Officer, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Michael Grindon, Chairman, Sony Entertainment Television. They will be visiting Mumbai and New Delhi between October 31 and November 3, and what makes it interesting is that it wil l not be just another ordinary visit to check how Sony is doing in the Indian market. They will be here to explore Sony's expansion opportunities in channels, films, multiplexes and broadband, and will also meet key Government officials. This is the firs t ``highest-level visit'' by Sony Pictures since they first invested in India in 1995.

We shall also be seeing some action from AXN in the near future. Starting 2001, they will institute an award for excellence in domestic cricket. The `AXN Action Cricketer' award will be based on the performance of cricketers in the Ranji Trophy, and the Cricketer of the Year will be awarded Rs 4 lakh. Of the others, four contenders will be awarded Rs 1 lakh each.

The party begins much before this for AXN, however. Their multi-city Action Film Festival, which kicked off in Chennai in September, continues in Calcutta in October, and moves to Bangalore and New Delhi in November before coming to Mumbai in December. T he event will last a week in each city, and as Todd Miller, Managing Director of AXN, had told me via e-mail recently, ``More on-the-ground events have been planned for India, and will be announced soon.''

More about those some other time.

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