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Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Murdoch tightens grip on Indian TV
Rupert Murdoch's Star TV has become the first foreign broadcaster to apply to transmit from Indian soil, part of wider plan to tighten its focus on the market.

Star, which broadcasts throughout Asia and beyond, currently "uplinks" to India from Hong Kong - in other words, its Indian signal is bounced in from outside, a common way of bypassing broadcasting regulations.

But the firm has now cancelled its arrangement with NDTV, its current content provider, and has asked for a licence to shift the uplink to India.

As part of the package, Star is to launch its own directly-controlled news channel, Star News, on 31 March next year.

The new arrangement, Star hopes, will give the firm the edge in the Indian market, seen as arguably the most promising in Asia.

Indian summer

Star has had a meteoric rise since entering the Indian market 10 years ago.

Rupert Murdoch and Wendy Deng
Mr Murdoch has increasingly focused on India

Its flagship Star Plus has leapt from obscurity to become the country's top cable channel, largely thanks to the success of its version of the game show "Who wants to be a millionaire?"

The company has poured money into its Indian operations, largely at the expense of sleepier markets in southeast Asia.

And in the process, it has siphoned viewers away from the two main local cable and satellite broadcasters, Zee and Aaj Tak.

But the market has become much more competitive in recent years, and both local firms were already uplinking from India, thereby reducing their costs in comparison with Star.

Growth, with reservations

The Indian broadcasting business remains highly promising, however.

Star turned its first profit this year, mainly thanks to growth in its two largest markets, India and China.

India now accounts for more than half the firm's revenues.

Broadcasters have been helped by rapid deregulation, and the growing appetite for fast-paced, westernised programming among younger Indians.

But Star's strategy has been focused on increasing market share in a country where broadcasting is highly fragmented, and where an unusually high fraction of cable subscription fees goes to the state.

See also:

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