Global giants race to take slice of India news industry
Prospect of relaxed ownership laws fuels buying frenzy
India is attracting the attention of global media giants anxious to gain a foothold and expand their influence in the world's fastest-growing media market.
Some analysts predict that India will eventually raise the 26 per cent limit on foreign stakes in the media, offering even more incentive to firms keen to enter the market.
'They want to have a lead when investment levels may be raised to, say, 49 per cent. It's a perfect way for [firms] to leverage their resources in another market and establish their brand,' said media analyst Vanita Kohli-Khandekar.
Tying up with a local media group allows for an appealing mix of local news and global resources. It means that global broadcasters such as CNN and the BBC can offer content that is more relevant to Indian viewers.
And it is the reason why CNN has tied up with Indian media group Global Broadcast News to launch news channel CNN-IBN, which has already won a 30 per cent market share.
The channel will have access to CNN's live breaking news as well as key feature programmes. The set-up is similar to operations CNN already has in Turkey and Spain.
For similar reasons, Reuters bought a 26 per cent stake in the Times of India newspaper group last year for US$19 million to launch 24-hour news and current affairs channel Times Now.
Reuters chief executive Tom Glocer told journalists at the launch that it was part of 'Reuters's global vision to build our news brand and forge a relationship directly with consumers'.
These channels are set to take advantage of the huge growth in India's cable television market, the world's third largest with 61 million subscribers, and growing.
In newspapers too, foreign firms are investing. In 2004, Pearson's Financial Times paid US$3 million for a 14 per cent shareholding in Business Standard, the No2 business daily in India.
Business Standard now has a daily page of global business news from the Financial Times and occasionally runs FT opinion pieces to differentiate itself from rivals.
And last June, another barrier was lifted when the government allowed foreign newspapers such as the International Herald Tribune to publish in India for the first time.
But there is a catch. They can only sell international editions. They cannot sell issues with local content or advertising, which would threaten local publications.
Recognising the formidable strength of the regional, non-English media, the Irish-owned Independent News & Media - publishers of the Independent in Britain - has bought a 26 per cent stake in the Dainik Jagran newspaper group for Euro27.3 million ($258.4 million).
Some consolidation in the country's crowded market is already taking place. Dainik Jagran launched a Hindi news channel called Channel 7 last year.
And earlier this month, Global Broadcast News, owners of the CNN-IBN channel, acquired a 50 per cent stake in Channel 7 so that it could offer viewers a 'bouquet' of channels instead of just one.