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Zee, Star TV in a need-based one-night stand

Anil Wanvari

Is there any truth that a marketing tieup between Zee TV and Star TV has been struck? Insiders aver that the two have not signed any long-term agreement. The promos that the two channels aired for each other's programmes last week were need based and were a one-night stand.

Sony Entertainment Television was airing `Rangeela' on Saturday at around the same time that Star Plus was showing Yes Boss. Sony had managed to get the promos for `Yes Boss' shown on Channel V, as the former is an investor in the channel. To checkmate Sony, Star and Zee decided to cross-promote their respective programmes. Zee plugged `Yes Boss' on its channel while Star pushed other Zee TV shows during the commercial breaks for Yes Boss.

Did the dual strategy succeed? No one knows. One will have to wait for the people meter reports. Sadly, even those give only an indicative rather than a true picture.

Mad to hit local stands soon

For Alfred E Neuman lovers, there is good news. That famous broken-toothed Mad magazine character is going to be hitting Indian book shelves soon. The magazine is being republished in India by its marketing outfit for India and neighbouring countries, MediaScope Associates.

The licensee for the Indian subcontinent is Gotham Entertainment New York. Each issue of Mad has been priced at Rs 30 and for the first time the magazine will be carrying colour ads priced from Rs 35,000 upwards.

According to MediaScope chief Rohinton Malloo, the response to the expected launch of Mad has been very good. "We will have to increase the print run by two-thirds as a huge chunk of our scheduled print run has been taken up by subscriptions leaving little for news-stand sales."

Collectors have already reserved some 8,000 copies of the inaugural issue internationally, while 22,000 subscriptions have been received.

MediaScope is also gearing up to launch Batman, Adventures, Superman Adventures, Batman & Robin, Superman and Tarzan comics from the DC range. The Adventures in the nametag signifies the comics are targeted at a younger age group. Ads in the DC comic book range are being priced at Rs 17,000.

The comic books are being printed in five languages: Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Malayalam, and English. Will they find custom amongst media planners? With eight pages of ads per issue and rates as low as they are, it shouldn't be too difficult considering the long shelf life of comics and Mad magazine in India.

"Comics are bought and sold to raddiwallahs and resold by them to only be resold to other raddiwallahs and bought again," says Malloo. An estimate is that anywhere from five to 10 individuals read a comic book in India. Which should also be good news for media planners.

National Geographic needs to rework programming

The National Geographic Channel has been reported to have made a stunning debut with a launch penetration of 5.5 million Indian cable and satellite homes - incredible figures for a pay TV service. There is no doubt it inherited quite a big piece of this from the earlier distribution of NBC, which was also a pay TV service, that it replaced.

But the parents' - NBC and the National Geographic Society which brings out the magazine of that name -- brand equity will have surely helped. However, the channel will find it difficult to increase its penetration drastically if it doesn't rework its programming and make it more Asian oriented, possible dovetailing some of the shows with local culture, local syllabus and curriculum.

It has to ensure that the programming is also kept radically different from Discovery, which is encrypted, but free to air, to this date. National Geographic's management has to understand that more of the same will not work with Indian audiences, unless it's drastically better. (Discovery is slated to turn pay in the near future.)

Also, the concept of addressability has yet to make a mark in the Indian market. Viewers cannot decided the channels they want to watch and pay for as those ubiquitous boxes found in several western homes have yet to begin their journey into Indian homes.

But the National Geographic management is not over-ambitious. It has set a growth target of 20 per cent for 1999 with penetration slated to touch 6.5 million by then. Nevertheless, it has as yet not got its marketing, ad sales, communications infrastructure in place in India. A media rep and PR firm are slated to be appointed in the next couple of weeks.

Television related gigs

Two exhibitions related to the television business are to be held this and next week: one in Cannes, France, the other in Mumbai. The first is MipCom and relates to television programming (October 5-9) and the second is the Satellite & Cable TV Trade Show (3-5 October) which is being held at the World Trade Centre, Mumbai.

Both are billed as one of the largest gigs of their kind. MipCom 98 has decided to have a special focus on Canadian programming on 6 October. The reasons for this are pretty clear: in just 15 years, Canadian television has rapidly developed into a world leader in co-productions and the second largest exporter of television programs.

The Government's involvement in television production is commanding with an annual investment of CAN$1.5 billion. Each year, CAN$500 million are invested in co-production and an increasing number of foreign producers team up with Canadian companies to get their productions off the ground. This apart, the Reed Midem Organization - which is the organiser of MipCom -- has named Pierre Lescure, chairman & chief executive officer of French firm, Canal Plus, personality of the year of Mipcom 1998.

Some 180 booths are being set up to accommodate the hundreds of television companies - both programme buyers and sellers - at the exhibition venue in Cannes. Don't be surprised if you find a handful of representatives from Indian television channels and production firms at the exhibition venue.

The ScaT India Tradeshow is expected to have 180 stalls with representation from the cable distribution departments of all the Indian television channels, cable TV equipment manufacturers, foreign channels that want to launch in India and even Internet service providers. Most visitors to the ScaT show are cable TV operators who come from all parts of India to keep abreast of latest developments in cable TV technology.

The writer can be reached at wanvari@giasbm01.vsnl.net.in or television@hotmail.com. Feel free to email with your comments.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

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