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24 January, 2008

Global media giants’ inroads continue, but there is no reverse traffic

World media giants are strengthening their hold on the Indian media. The latest entrant is NBC Universal, which has bought a 26 per cent stake in NDTV for $150 million.

According to Sreenath Sreenivasan, Profession at the Columbia Journalism School, news of the NBC investment in NDTV was first broken on January 2 by Rafat Ali on (He describes it as “a must-read blog about the Indian media scene”. Rafat Ali also has “a must-read US blog”, named, he says.)

According to The Hindu BusinessLine, announcing the strategic partnership with NDTV, Jeff Zucker, President and CEO, NBC Universal, told presspersons that NBC's goal to grow its business outside the US, and in particular India."India is one of the most important markets in the world and I think it will become more important in the months and years to come. This was another sign of our parent company, General Electric's commitment to India," said Zucker.

According to GE India's President and CEO, Mr Tejpreet Singh Chopra, the company was virtually evaluating all areas in the media space, and media would play a significant role in the company's growth plans for the country.
NDTV, which has a news channel (NDTV 24x7) and business channel (NDTV Profit), recently launched a general entertainment channel, NDTV Imagine.

Sreenath Sreenivasan notes that a day after the launch of Imagine, Prannoy Roy said, "India is a vibrant economy, alive and kicking, with a media scene that is way ahead of that of many developed countries."
Sreenivasan also quotes Peter Smith, President, NBC Universal International, as saying the $5-billion Indian TV market is growing at 16 per cent, and is expected to reach $9 billion in the next few years.

NBC’s deal with NDTV includes an option, exercisable in two years’ time, for it to increase its stake to 50 per cent in the joint venture company through which it will be investing.Other foreign media giants who have established presence on the Indian television scene are Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (through the Star network, which includes a news channel and entertainment channels in English, Hindi and Tamil), CNBC (through TV 18, with channels in English and Hindi) and CNN through (through TV 18 and Indian Broadcast Network).

Sreenath Sreenivasan, who once worked as NDTV correspondent in New York, views NBC’s NDTV deal as “yet another sign how much interest there is in India and Indian media”. Says he: “I remember how difficult it was for me to get TV interviews for NDTV with political and business leaders in the early 90s. Few people cared about the media in India. That, of course, has changed a lot.”

Globalization permits two-way traffic, at least to a limited extent, and India happens to be one of the few countries equipped to ensure that traffic is not limited to one way. Indeed, several Indian businesses have taken advantage of the situation and established presence abroad. However, despite Prannoy Roy’s assertion about the strength of the Indian media scene, no domestic major has tried to establish even a toehold abroad.

Curiously, the only Indian newspapers that have ventured abroad are those rooted in some Indian language. Malayalam newspapers like Madhyamam and Malayala Manorama publish editions from more than one centre in the Gulf States. They are, of course, catering to migrant populations.

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