Sumita Vaid

"Monetary reasons drove HBO and One Alliance apart"

Kunal Dasgupta, CEO, SET India says, the break up with HBO is not going to effect the bouquet price of One Alliance

Popular English movie channel HBO has decided to part ways with One Alliance, the distribution network owned by Sony Entertainment and Discovery. With effect from January 1, 2005, Turner International India will exclusively manage the advertising sales for HBO and distribute the service through its Zee Turner joint venture in India.

This puts to end HBO's distribution arrangement with One Alliance that had been the exclusive advertising sales and distribution representative for HBO, since January 2003.

The reason, cites HBO, for the distribution tie up with Zee Turner is to further the movie channel's growth in the country. "HBO is the premier English language movie channel in the marketplace and has become a must-have channel for consumers. The ZEE Turner alliance will allow us to build on the strong growth - we have enjoyed over the last several years," says Jonathan Spink, CEO of HBO Asia.

However, when One Alliance was contacted to understand the implications of this development on One Alliance, agencyfaqs! was informed that "financial reason" was the cause for parting ways. Spelling out the nature of those financial reasons, says Kunal Dasgupta, chief executive officer, SET India, "HBO, for its brand, was asking for an amount that was higher than what could be given..."

HBO was the only 24 hour English movie channel in One Alliance's kitty that currently includes MTV, Nick, Animax, SET, Max, AXN, Discovery, Animal Planet, NDTV India and NDTV 24x7. With HBO gone, One Alliance loses an important player. "One Alliance was not making any profit from the distribution of HBO. Moreover, if HBO was critical to us, we would have agreed to the amount quoted by them..."clarifies Dasgupta.

Apparently the break up with HBO is not going to effect the bouquet price of One Alliance. "No, the bouquet price will not be effected. We now have Animax in our kitty and we will have one more channel in time to come." Dasgupta says. The Sony Entertainment boss, however, could not be persuaded to reveal the name of the TV channel. "I will talk about it, when I am ready," he says.

HBO's Spink, on his part, states in the communique: "HBO appreciates the fine effort made by SET India and the SET Discovery One Alliance in growing our business in the competitive India market."

HBO, since its launch in India, has had a fickle relationship with its distribution partners. The English movie channel was launched in India by Turner International in September 2000. Two years later, the distribution deal had come off as HBO joined the One Alliance bandwagon.

In an earlier interview with agencyfaqs!, Shruti Bajpai, country manager, HBO South Asia, had commented that the break-up with Turner was a strategic call. "It was the decision of the international management of HBO. We tied up with Turner for a two-year contract."

At the time of the announcement of HBO's distribution tie up with One Alliance in 2002, James P Marturano, executive vice-president, HBO Asia and MD, HBO - South Asia, had indicated that attractive "commercial terms" favoured its tie-up with One Alliance. "...with SET as our ad sales representative and the One Alliance platform distributing our service, we are obviously optimistic about a further hike in figures," Marturano had said. Incidentally, Turner's plans of launching its own English movie channel in the Asia Pacific region was rumored to be the reason for the break up in 2002.

But now things are different. One Alliance is out and Turner is back. In fact, Zee Turner is looking forward to the partnership with HBO. "We are excited to have HBO join Zee Turner, the largest bouquet of channels in India. With this addition, we clearly become the market leader in providing entertainment to every class of the Indian community," said Dheeraj Kapuria, CEO of Zee Turner.

HBO will now be a part of the Zee Turner bouquet that features Zee TV, Zee Cinema, Cartoon Network, Pogo, CNN as well as a host of strong regional channels. It is not known at this stage as to whether the inclusion of HBO in the Zee Turner bouquet change its pricing.

Zee Turner is a joint venture company that manages distribution and trade marketing for Zee Telefilms and Turner International's bouquet of channels as well as third party channels such as CNBC and Reality TV in India and South Asia.

© 2004 agencyfaqs!

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