ETC Networks, the Mumbai-based media house known for its twin channels, ETC and ETC Punjabi (both are free-to-air, analog channels beamed from Thaicom-3), is planning to add two new channels to its portfolio. The first off the block would be ETC World, a subscription-driven channel for NRIs across the UK, the USA, Canada, South Africa and the Far East. Following it would be an English music channel, the specifics of which remain undisclosed for the moment.
"We are launching ETC World - a hybrid of ETC Punjabi and Hindi - in the next couple of months to exploit the overseas potential," said Jagjit Singh Kohli, director, ETC Networks, in an exclusive interview to agencyfaqs!. "It will be a phased launch beginning with the UK, the USA and Canada and then we will target South Africa and the Far East."
ETC is looking at a subscription base of 3,00,000 by the second year for ETC World. "It will be driven primarily by subscription revenues," affirms Kohli. What makes Kohli and his team so confident about the channel's prospects is the exclusive Gurbani feed. Last year, ETC bagged exclusive rights for broadcasting (deferred, not live) the Gurbani recitation from the Golden Temple (Amritsar, Punjab) for a period of 11 years. "Almost all Indian channels are present in these countries now," agreed Kohli, "but nobody has Gurbani. The population of Indian expats, particularly Punjabis, is huge in these countries," said Kohli.
Kohli's optimism stems from the success of the Gurbani telecast on ETC Punjabi. "ETC Punjabi was launched in June 2000 only because we had exclusive transmission rights for Gurbani," admitted Kohli. "Today we are airing eight hours of Gurbani and it has really helped us penetrate households".
Indeed. INTAM figures suggest that ETC Punjabi leads all other Punjabi channels in the country. "The channel is only five to six months old but it leads Alpha, Tara, Lashkara and DD Punjabi," claimed Pradeep Dixit, CEO, ETC Networks.
According to ETC estimates, Zee reaches 80,000 subscribers in the US and had touched a peak of 1.6 lakh subscribers in the UK. "It has dipped now," said Kohli. Sony is estimated to reach 40,000-50,000 subscribers in the US and 60,000 in the UK. "Just reaching one country, the UK - which is the most expensive - would take an investment of one million pounds," said Kohli. "So we are targeting three countries in the first phase." He is raising money through debt and also talking with other channels for equity dilution.
"An English music channel is also in the pipeline," affirms Kohli. "It has been put on hold till certain things fall in place. It will come once our international operations start." A business magazine had reported that ETC's music channel will be called Strip. "It will not happen as Strip but Strip will be there as a concept," said Kohli. "We are negotiating with some international brands and negotiations take a lot of time. This will be a more metro-oriented channel, with VJs etc. The reason is that there is no exclusive English channel today. MCM is French. [V] and MTV are hybrid."
ETC, which was launched in 1999 by Kohli and two of his IN Cablenet partners Yogesh Radhakrishnan and Yogesh Shah, claims to lead all other music channels today. INTAM figures for February 19-25, 2001 show ETC's all-India, 15-minute day reach among channels as 5.62, followed by MTV (4.7), B4U (3.21), [V] (2.88) and Zee Music (2.7).
Up next on ETC's agenda is the launch of a 24-hour news channel. All this to reposition the ETC Network from being a music channel to "a complete family entertainment channel". The company hopes to close its books with a turnover of Rs 50 crore this year, which is a third short of its target of Rs 75 crore.
However, the company brass is upbeat. The company, which lost a significant number of senior people late last year, is working overtime to consolidate its early gains and crack the markets where it is weak. Four months back it launched its South operations under a separate division New Age, which markets time slots for two programmes on Sun TV. "It was started to utilise our marketing strength and to have more leverage with advertisers when we sell the south package. Lot of major clients may be reluctant to advertise on ETC, but with the south package we get an entry to pitch ETC too," said Kohli.
© 2001 agencyfaqs!First Published : March 27, 2001