Star, Zee Join for TV Distribution in India

The rival networks partner for cable distribution joint venture.

NEW DELHI -- News Corp.'s Star India network and leading Indian broadcaster Zee Telefilms have partnered via their distribution affiliate companies to create an equal joint venture that will combine distribution of their respective channel bouquets in India.

The newly formed company Media Pro Enterprise India Pvt. Ltd. is an equal joint venture between Zee Turner Ltd. and Star Den Media Services Private Ltd. and would jointly aggregate and distribute channels licensed to Zee Turner and Star Den.

Star Den Media Services Pvt. Ltd. is an existing equal joint venture between Star India Private Ltd. and Mumbai-based digital cable distribution entity Den Networks Limited. Zee Turner Ltd. is an existing 74:26 joint venture between Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. and Turner International India Private Ltd.

Zee Turner distributes Zee TV's bouquet of entertainment and news channels in addition to Turner outlets such as CNN, HBO, Cartoon Network and WB. Star Den distributes the Star offerings of both English and Indian-language outlets in addition to MGM, Nat Geo, Fox History and Entertainment.

Zee TV started off as a partner Hindi channel for the newly launched Star TV in the early 1990s but both parted ways after News Corp. bought Star TV from its founder, Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing.

The joint distribution announcement is considered a landmark of sorts as it brings together the two rival networks which have been fiercely competing against each other both on the programming and distribution front.

“The long-term vision of this venture is to pool together the resources of both the partners so as to address various anomalies of the present analog market, curb piracy, introduce transparency by accelerating pace of digitisation in India which would result in benefit to all the stakeholders in the value chain," Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. MD and CEO Punit Goenka said in a statement.  

“This is a milestone initiative which will redefine the Indian distribution landscape and lead to a content revolution in the country by creating efficiencies in the value chain. In the past, there was a lack of shared perspective among broadcasters; the coming together of the two leaders will lead to a larger consensus around a growth blueprint for the Indian electronic media industry,” Star India CEO Uday Shankar added.

“Zee Turner is the country’s first bouquet of channels and marking the tenth year of our successful alliance with ZEEL, we are proud to be part of yet another path breaking distribution landmark that is created today," Turner International India MD Anshuman Misra said.

According to consulting firm KPMG India, in 2010 total pay-TV subscription revenues in India reached 194 billion rupees ($4.3 billion) of which 20 percent  went to broadcasters. KPMG estimates that by 2015 pay revenues will touch 416 billion rupees with broadcasters seeing an increase in their share to 30 percent.