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Zee 24 Gantalu to go on air from March 30
Defying the economic slowdown, Zee News is going ahead with its expansion plans and the listed company is now concentrating on two new launches - a Telugu news channel Zee 24 Gantalu and Zee News UP.

The first launch of the company in 2009, Zee 24 Gantalu, is schedule to roll out from March 30. This will be followed by the launch of a 24-hour news channel exclusively for Uttar Pradesh.

Barun Das, chief executive officer, Zee News, says Zee 24 Gantalu is targeted at males, SEC ABC, in the age group of 25-44 years. Zee also beams Zee Telugu, a Telugu GEC in Hyderabad.

Shailesh Reddy is the business head for Zee 24 Gantalu, who used to head the Hyderabad news bureau of Zee News earlier. He has more than 13 years of experience in journalism and started his career with Eenadu in 1995.

Zee 24 Gantalu will compete with news channels such as ETV, Gemini News, HMTV, HY TV, I News, Local TV, Mahaa TV, Maa News, NTV, Sakshi TV, Sitara, TV5, TV9, among several other news channels in the Telugu space.

Moving ahead, Das avers that "Given the uncertainty, the company is critically reviewing each and every plan. Unless we derive significant benefits, we would naturally wait for the economy to stabilise before going for any further expansion."

Zee News has reported consolidated revenues of Rs 143 crore in Q3, up 45.4 per cent as compared to Rs 98.32 crore in the corresponding quarter of FY08. Q3 net profit was up 18.4 per cent at Rs 15.13 crore.

On the advertising revenue, Das said that they are trying to beat the recession by offering innovative solutions for advertisers. The company also expects election advertising to give a boost.

Zee News will stay in the Hindi and regional news space. Of the regional channels, the company claims that Zee 24 Gantalu has already broken even, while the Marathi news channel Zee 24 Taas is firmly on the path to break even too. The company has also launched Zee Tamil recently which, they claim, is picking up fast.

According to Das, an investment of Rs 15-20 crore will be spread over a period of a little over one year. The Zee News board has also approved the closure of Zee Gujarati from April 30, 2009.

Recently, leading financial institutions such as Edelweiss, ICICI Securities, Macquarie and Kotak have already rated Zee News as the most preferred media company for investment, even during troubled times.

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