India's NDTV Imagine sets debut

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A new channel, NDTV Imagine, will launch in India's crowded Hindi-language television entertainment space Monday, led by Sameer Nair, the man who turned STAR India around with the Hindi version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

Broadcasting group New Delhi Television's play into the $761 million Hindi entertainment TV market will compete against News Corp.-owned leader STAR Plus along with other rivals including Zee TV and Sony Entertainment Television.

In 2006, total Indian TV advertising revenues reached $1.6 billion, to which Hindi general entertainment channels contributed 45% or $761 million, according to data from the AC Nielsen and Kantar Media Research/IMRB joint venture TAM Media.

Launched as a news production company in the late 1980s, NDTV already operates the news channels NDTV 24x7 in English and NDTV India in Hindi.

NDTV's diversification into entertainment comes amid local press reports that NBC Universal may buy a stake (HR 1/3).

Nair plans to offer a mix of talent shows and entertainment programming under the creative supervision of well-known Bollywood director Karan Johar. At STAR, Nair was instrumental in boosting STAR Plus' market share by launching shows like the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" in 2000, hosted by iconic Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan.

At launch, NDTV Imagine's initial programming lineup only includes homegrown shows.

Competition in Hindi entertainment television is expected to be intense given that other channels are in the pipeline this year, notably from Viacom18, the joint venture between Viacom and Mumbai-based broadcasting group Network 18 (HR 11/7).
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