NBC Uni buys into Indian TV

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LONDON -- NBC Universal is continuing its global expansion with a $150 million acquisition of a 26% stake in Indian cabler NDTV Networks, with an option to increase it to 50% in two years.

NDTV, a provider of Hindi lifestyle and entertainment channels including NDTV Imagine, NDTV Labs and NDTV Lifestyle, competes in a fast-growing market dominated by Star TV and Zee TV.

But the country's affluent middle classes and burgeoning manufacturing industries are propelling rapid growth in its television market, said NBC chief executive Jeff Zucker as he announced the step Tuesday.

"This will be a significant investment in an important emerging market and further illustrates our commitment to expand internationally, particularly in high-growth areas," he said in a statement. "The Indian TV market is growing at 16% annually, which provides huge opportunities now and into the future."

NBDTV CEO Vikram Chandra said NBC will be a strong partner for the growing business.

"Over the past six months we have launched four channels and made significant progress in new generation Internet and mobile phone offerings," Chandra said. "This partnership with one of the world's most respected media companies will strengthen our position as a dominant force in Indian media and entertainment."

NBC Universal acquired the Hallmark International channels last year and has ramped up its international production operations. In April, Zucker told General Electric investors that he wanted to double revenue from the company's international businesses.

India, currently the world's third-largest cable television market, is forecast to be Asia's most lucrative pay TV market within the next decade.

In the last 18 months, studios have been involved in what amounts to a landgrab in the region in a bid to capitalize on future growth.

Viacom India has a joint venture partnership with TV18 group for a slew of general entertainment channels; Turner also has entered a joint venture to launch entertainment channels in the region.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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