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Anil Ambani puts channel plans on hold
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Anil Ambani-promoted Reliance Entertainment is believed to have put its ambitious broadcasting foray on the backburner as the media and entertainment sector is hit hard by the global financial downturn. The time is not appropriate for expensive launch of channels since the revenue is shrinking in the media space, said sources.

“The company, earlier, planned to launch and operate a bouquet of 20 channels under two new entities — Reliance Big TV Entertainment and Reliance Big TV News. A Hindi general entertainment channel and three regional movie channels were planned to be launched by August 2008. But the project has failed to take off from the discussion stage as the financial climate was not supportive for investments,” said sources.

A company executive said that the Anil Ambani group is still keen on foraying into television broadcasting business. “There is no change in the business plan. Since it is tough time around, we will decide the timing of the launch later. Currently, the company is proceeding with studies and analysis,” said the executive.

Moreover, he added that the company would consider acquisition of sick-broadcasters as most of them are in deep financial trouble. The top-line of broadcasters was shrinking in the December-ended quarter on the back of economic slowdown and the consequent slowdown in advertising revenues, said the latest Ficci & KPMG report. Sectors like TV, Print, Radio and Outdoor, which depend on advertising revenues were largely affected and this is estimated to continue into the current year too, added the report.

As per earlier media reports, Reliance Entertainment’s news broadcasting company will launch four channels — two general news and two business news — one each in Hindi and English in both genres. The non-news broadcasting company was planning to launch music and movie channels, five general entertainment channels, and dedicated channels focused on children and lifestyle.

Billionaire investor George Soros last year paid Rs 395 crore for a 3 per cent stake in Reliance Entertainment, giving the valuation of the company at Rs13,035 crore. Reliance ADAG, through several affiliates and group companies, holds substantial equity stakes in several media and entertainment firms.

Reliance Entertainment also planned to launch around eight websites last year, including a job portal and a classifieds portal. According to sources, these proposals are also put on hold following the economic crisis. The firm already runs gaming portal Zapak, social networking site BigAdda, and online movie rental business Big Flicks.

Source: Business Standard
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