Consolidation in the distribution business continues, and this is a big one – STAR DEN Media Services, a 50:50 joint venture between Star India and DEN Networks, has agreed to form a 50:50 joint venture with Zee Turner Limited for jointly distributing channels licensed to the two distribution entities across. The joint venture company will be called Media Pro Enterprise India Private Limited. Zee Turner is itself a 74:26 joint venture between Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd and Turner International Private Limited. The Zee Turner alliance is around 10 years old.
From a cable, DTH or IPTV service provider perspective, this deal brings to the same distribution entity, channels from the STAR DEN bouquet – Star Plus, Star One, Star Gold, Star Moviews, Star World, Vijay TV, Star Utsav, Star News, Channel V, NatGeo, Fox History and Entertainment, FC, Asianet, Asianet Plus, Star CJ, NDTV 24×7, NDTV India, among others, as well those from Zee Turner – Zee TV, Zee Cinema, Cartoon Network, HBO, WB, Zee Studio, Zee Business, Zee Cafe etc. At present, the TV content distribution business is largely controlled by access service providers – DTH companies and Multi-System Operators (MSO)s, which take a carriage fee for distributing channels. A consolidation between distribution aggregators gives the channels an opportunity to negotiate lower carriage fees.
Meanwhile, CNBC-TV18 reports, quoting unnamed sources, that Competition Commission of India is examining the Media Pro deal. Note that PTI has also reported the same, also quoting sources. Readers should keep in mind that CNBC-TV18 is owned by Network18, a part of the Sun18 alliance. The Media Pro joint venture is going to compete with the Sun18 joint venture formed between the Sun Network and Network18, for controlling distribution of 33 channels aross India. Distribution across the country was split into separate companies distributing to North and South India, with the Network18 group managing north, and Sun TV managing south. Disney channels are also a part of the Sun18 bouquet.
However, it isn’t a market that is split between two entities, though. Earlier this year, the Times of India Group formed a distribution company called Prime connect for distributing the group owned channels.
However, there are issues of cross holdings 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 STAR network, Zee/Essel group and the SUN TV network all have cross holding across the media ecosystem.
Disclosure: Both Network18 and Indiatimes (a part of the Times of India Group) are advertisers with MediaNama.