On the very day of its soft launch, Dakshin Media Ltd's Bharathi TV – the ninth Tamil language channel – achieved the distinction of replacing Jain TV, a national channel. The replacement of Jain TV by Bharathi TV is not in TRP ratings or viewership standing, but in the Chennai-based multiple services operator (MSO) Sun Cable Vision's (SCV) network.
Part of Sumangali Publications Ltd. that owns the Sun group of channels, SCV is the undisputed industry leader in Tamil Nadu and the sole player in Chennai. It packed off BPL's cable operations in Coimbatore with its aggressive marketing strategy and is present almost in every city and town in Tamil Nadu.
The network suddenly decided to take out Jain TV in favour of Bharathi TV. For the bewildered Jain TV officials, the channel switch-off came like a bolt from the blue. Hardly couple of days before Bharathi TV's soft launch, SCV pushed Jain TV a couple of places ahead in the channel band.
"We thought that our channel would be pushed further down in the channel band when Bharathi TV is launched. But cutting it off entirely is really a shock to us," remarks a Jain TV official. Even cable operators were caught by surprise and they had to face subscribers' ire. "It is only a temporary arrangement. Bharathi TV's signals are being tested now and you would have seen the same being mentioned on the television screen," responds a SCV official.
Responding to the query as to why an Indian channel was taken off instead of foreign channels like the Italian Rai International, controversial Fashion TV, TV5, he remarks that the decision is based on viewership demand. According to him, foreign channels have a good following amongst foreign tourists staying in star hotels in the state.
But when compared to the total population in the state, foreign tourists would form an insignificant number. As tourists they would not be confined to their hotel rooms to watch the TV programmes. Moeover the BBC channel is always there for them to provide news updates, fumes a Jain TV official.
"We would like to satisfy all market segments," reiterates the SCV official. Contrary to his statement that Bharathi TV will be switched off and telecast of Jain TV will resume at 12 noon on Saturday (24.1.2001), no such thing has happened till the filing of this report. Out of the 61 channels offered by SCV, nearly 12 are Hindi language-based if one takes into account couple of music channels that air mostly Hindi songs. The remaining constitutes Tamil, English and other regional language channels.
According to industry sources, several other language channels like Tara, Alpha Marathi, etc. also want to be beamed in Tamil Nadu. For MSOs like SCV, Siti Cable, In-Cable, Hathway Cable & Datacom, etc., the proliferation of channels augurs well, as it throws up a new revenue source called Carriage Fee.
According to an Andhra Pradesh-based cable operator, an MSO in Hyderabad is already charging some channels the carriage fee.
"Beaming Bharathi TV in the place of Jain has nothing to do with Carriage Fee as we don't charge any channel," responds the SCV official. When contacted, officials of Dakshin Media denied payment of any fee to SCV.
Meanwhile the stand-off between SCV and Jain TV continues. For Jain TV, the impact will be severe as it gets lot of advertisements from the lottery business, a thriving sector in Tamil Nadu. Absence of the channel from a major network is going to cost the channel dearly in terms of advertisement revenues.