Asianet and Asianet Plus go pay

By Sumantha Rathore , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | April 20, 2010
This is the second set of Malayalam channels to go paid this year

Asianet and Asianet Plus become the second set of Malayalam channels to go paid in Kerala this year. Earlier this year, Sun Network's free-to-air (FTA) channels, Kiran TV and Surya TV, went paid.

From April 12, the general entertainment channel, Asianet has an la carte price of Rs 13.50; while the youth entertainment channel, Asianet Plus is priced at Rs 7.50 per month. As a package, Asianet and Asianet Plus are together available for Rs 15 per month.

The two Malayalam channels to go paid earlier this year, Surya TV and Kiran TV, as a bouquet, are priced at Rs 20.33 per subscriber per month in non-CAS areas; while in CAS areas, the price is Rs 5.35 per channel per month.

Asianet is part of a joint venture between Star Jupiter Entertainment Television and STAR India. As a FTA (free-to-air) channel, Asianet managed its own distribution earlier. The two channels are now being distributed by STAR Den.

Gurjeev Singh Kapoor, CEO, STAR Den Media Services, says, "Kerala was the only state in the South to be providing FTA channels; whereas all the prominent players of the southern market had gone paid in the rest of South India. Now, the important players are turning their attention to this market, as subscription is an important way of making money for the channels."

According to Kapoor, no significant shift is expected in the viewership of Asianet and Asianet Plus as a result of the development. "Asianet reaches more than 4 million cable and satellite homes in Kerala; and this shift won't make any difference," he says.

As far as cable and satellite (C&S) television is concerned, Kerala is growing at the rate of 7-10 per cent per year, and is considered to be a highly penetrated C&S market. As per NRS data, there are 3.6 million cable homes in Kerala. The retail size of the Kerala market is about Rs 40 crore, with 3.6 million homes paying around Rs 120 per month.

Jagdish Kumar, president - South, STAR India says, "The volatility of ad revenues during the past year has clearly shown that TV broadcasters cannot rely solely on a single stream of revenues. They have to diversify their portfolios to de-risk their businesses. The Kerala market will be benefited by the additional opportunities presented by this initiative. This will encourage digitisation and trigger a wave of innovation and creativity in content development."

He adds, "As per the NRS data, the penetration of satellite TV in Kerala is around 70 per cent. Digitisation and consumerism in Kerala will drive growth at double-digit rates."

Apart from Asianet, STAR Den distributes Vijay, Suvarna and Sitara TV in the South. And in the East, it distributes STAR India's two Bengali channels that have gone paid -- Star Jalsha, a GEC and Ananda, a news channel. Star Jalsha is available at the la carte rate of Rs 12; whereas, Star Ananda, which is a JV between STAR India and ABP Group, is priced at Rs 6. The two channels are available as a package for Rs 12.

STAR Den also distributes STAR Plus, STAR One, STAR Gold, STAR Movies, STAR World, Vijay TV, STAR Utsav, STAR News, STAR Pravah, STAR Jalsha, Channel V, National Geographic Channel, The History Channel, Disney, Jetix, Hungama, Zoom, Times Now, CNBC TV 18, CNBC Awaaz, CNN-IBN, IBN7 and The MGM Channel.

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