Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is betting big on Indian regional media. Murdoch, who is on a visit to India, said that he would invest $100 million in Indian regional TV channels in one year. First of his moves will be to pick up a 20-26% stake in the upcoming Marathi news channel Saam TV, which is owned by Abhijit Pawar, the brother of Union Minister and politician Sharad Pawar. The financial details are unknown.
Also on cards is a majority stake in Asianet Communications’ three general entertainment channels in Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada. Asianet is currently majority owned by Rajeev Chandrasekhar, former founder of BPL Mobile. This is contingent on Murdoch-owned Star Group selling its 25.99% stake in Balaji Telefilms as the latter is planning a big bang entry into regional TV channels.
As for Saam TV, Murdoch has reportedly met Pawar over lunch during the weekend and has probably finalised the deal. Marathi media segment is getting hotter with TV18 Group launching their own news channel called Lokmat TV.
Indian advertising market is growing at 18.5 per cent (according to a PWC report). The overall media market size is esteimated to be Rs 20,000 crore, while the TV advertising generated revenues of more than Rs 8,000 crore last year. The regional TV advertising spend grew by 8 per cent in 2007.
Mint reported on Tuesday that Star Group and its chief content provider Balaji Telefilms have reached an agreement to part ways. In 2004, Murdoch’s Star had bought 25.99% stake in Balaji, which makes some of India’s most popular soaps like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, for Rs 123 crore. Now Balaji is likely buy back the stake (at a price unknown till now). According to Mint, Balaji is in talks with a consortium of investors which include a media group and private equity investors to form a JV which will fund Balaji’s plans to start a slew of regional entertainment channels.
With Murdoch’s interest gaining momentum in India, the media market is set to see a slew of deals.