"We are looking at both regional-language and pan-Indian family channels," says Patrice van de Walle, Sony Pictures's vice president-corporate development for Europe. The company is on the lookout for suitable local partners willing to hold a minority interest.
Sony's 80%-owned Entertainment Television India broadcasts Hindustani-language family programmes via the PanAmSat-4 satellite to South Asian audiences in the subcontinent, parts of Africa and the Middle East. It claims to reach nine million Indian homes, a 67% penetration of all cable connections in India.
But the channel's first-year revenue target of $20m will not be met. "The market has in general been a bit weak this year," says van de Walle. Stiff competition from Rupert Murdoch's 50.1%-owned Zee Network and state-run Doordarshan has been another difficulty, he admits. Doordarshan accounted for 69% of the $336m TV spend in India last year, while Murdoch's Zee and Hong Kong-based Star TV satellite networks gathered a combined 25% share.
Sony's lack of a CEO and vice president-ad sales is "one of the most pressing problems," according to van de Walle. The previous incumbent CEO Arun Arora resigned a few months ago to return to his former employer, Bombay-based Bennett, Coleman & Co., India's No.1 newspaper publisher. Arora is now executive director at Bennett.
Copyright September 1996, Crain Communications Inc.