Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. (BCCL)*, which owns the TV channels Times Now, ET Now, Movies Now, Zoom TV, has announced the formation of a distribution joint venture called Media Network & Distribution (India) Ltd (MNDIL), in partnership with industry veteran Yogesh Radhakrishnan.

MNDIL will launch “Prime Connect”, which it claims will be “an independent distribution platform”, for distributing channels in India through MSOs, DTH, IPTV and all emerging digital platforms across homes & commercial establishments. To begin with, expectedly, MNDIL will be the exclusive distributor for The Times Group Channels mentioned earlier.

Radhakrishnan, who will be MD & CEO of Prime Connect, was previously the MD and CEO of Real Media, the Middle East based company owned by the Zee Network; he had been instrumental in setting up ETC Networks alongwith Jagjit Kohli (founder of Digicable) and Yogesh Shah, before which he had set up an MSO, InCable. Radhakrishnan is promising to address the issue of under declaration (ed: of subscribers and revenues), and use digital platforms to increase transparency.

Why Is BCCL Forming A Distribution JV?

With this move, BCCL becomes the latest among media companies to launch their own distribution entities: News Corp’s STAR TV group and Sameer Manchanda promoted DEN Networks had joined forces to launch the STAR-DEN alliance, which fell out with the Network18 group which formed the Sun18 joint venture with Kalanidhi Maran’s Sun Group. India has, it has been reported, over 400 TV channels awaiting approval for launch, and with the complicated distribution across Cable operators and MSO’s, as well as DTH and IPTV, there is clearly room for more aggregators to be formed.

When it comes to the traditional media business, distribution is most of the battle: it’s integral to the newspaper business, and it’s surprising that BCCL has entered the TV distribution business this late.

There are issues of cross holding across the media value chain – media companies owning content/channels, distribution companies and broadcast companies, which allows them inordinate control over the content which consumers are accessing; the Indian government has been “looking into” but not really doing anything about issues around cross-holding, and it’s unlikely anything will be done about it, as long as media owners (or their relatives) are involved in government.

What is surprising, though, is that BCCL hasn’t yet to launched its own access business.

*Disclosure: BCCL group company Indiatimes is an advertiser with MediaNama