| If the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu can have Sun TV, the CPI(M) in Kerala have Kairali TV, can the first family of Karnataka be far behind? Not really. In less than two months' time, viewers in Karnataka will be able to tune in to a new channel being launched by the family of the state Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy. "The media world has always fascinated me," says Kumaraswamy, adding that the proposed channel, named Kannada Kasturi, has been on the drawing board for almost two years. |
With a mixed content-60 per cent news and 40 per cent entertainment-Kasturi will be entering an already crowded arena. The Sun group's Udaya TV is the major player in Karnataka with almost five channels, each of them dedicated to songs, music, news, current affairs and films. Independent analysts say Udaya, thanks to its sole copyright over more than 1,000 Kannada films and songs, continues to have hegemony over the region. The cost of acquiring copyrights of films has gone up from approximately Rs 5-6 lakh per film to nearly Rs 40 lakh. Only the new films or those made in the past four to five years are open to be bought over by the new channels. Almost half of the market is under Udaya. "The Kannada satellite TV market is worth Rs 1,500 crore, and we'll try to carve a niche for ourselves," says Chief Minister Kumaraswamy's wife Anitha Kumaraswamy, chairperson, Kasturi TV.
S. Kumar of the state cable operators association believes that new channels will end the monopoly of the Sun group in the state. Says die-hard Kannada activist Suresh Krishna, "We'll back this channel as this is the only channel owned by the true sons of the soil; other Kannada channels are run by outsiders. We must have Kannada pride and support this venture, irrespective of which party this family belongs to." The Malayalam channel Asianet, owned by Bangalore-based industrialist and MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar whose investment vehicle Jupiter Entertainment Ventures bought 51 per cent stake of the channel, is also planning to launch a Kannada channel. Asianet had launched Kaveri channel with Zee seven years ago but shut down following losses. Another Kannada channel Suprabhata also did not last long. But in the last two years, there has been a major churn in investments in the southern states, with 10 new channels being launched. Zee Kannada became pay in May 2006, while Hyderabad-based Associated Broadcasting Company's-promoted by NRIS-TV9 Karnataka is digging at the heels of the Udaya network. "The Kannada audience is hungry for live news and debates on current affairs. The Cauvery issue was a major tipping point for news channels like us," says TV9 managing director S.V.L. Narayan.
At a time when the state has witnessed an upsurge of Kannada pride during the protests over the Cauvery river water dispute, a native Kannada channel is expected to play to the local sentiments and carve out a huge audience base. That is, at least, what the promoters fondly hope.
-By Stephen David