India's STAR, DEN team for cable

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NEW DELHI -- News Corp. subsidiary STAR India and DEN Digital Entertainment Networks Pvt Ltd. are targeting India's 75 million cable homes in a new joint distribution venture.

The as-yet-unnamed joint venture will be based in Mumbai and plans to distribute television channels in India via all fixed networks. A timetable and terms of the deal were not announced.

India has an estimated 60,000 cable operators, most of which are aligned with MSOs such as Siticable Network, which is owned by Indian broadcasting group Zee Telefilms.

India's cable distribution is going digital to take on competition from newly launched direct-to-home services such as Zee's Dish TV and News Corp.-promoted joint venture TATA-Sky.

Under the STAR-DEN agreement, the joint venture will be the exclusive distributor for STAR India, which includes the network's various channels such as flagship Hindi entertainment channel STAR Plus as well as STAR-distributed channels such as National Geographic and Disney. It also will seek to expand its offerings by including other third-party channels for distribution.

"It is an important growth initiative in the distribution platform business and enables us to better harness the growth opportunity," STAR India CEO Uday Shankar said.

DEN was founded by veteran broadcasting professional Sameer Manchanda with broadcasting group Network18's promoter and managing director Raghav Behl.

"DEN is excited to join forces with India's richest content provider in building an independently run and robust channel distribution platform," Manchanda said.

Network18 and Viacom announced the broadcasting venture Viacom18 last May (HR 5/22).

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