Chandra  Foresees Further Zee TV Expansion In The U.S.

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Fresh off the launch of five new channels last month on Dish Network, Zee TV is continuing to pursue linear carriage of these services with other providers, while also considering other distribution gambits.
Asia TV USA Ltd., which represents the giant South Asian programmer in the States, as well as newly rebranded wellness channel Veria Living, remains in ongoing negotiations with a number of top multichannel video providers, according to India media mogul Subhash Chandra, whose Zee TV programming in its various iterations is now seen in 167 nations.

Dish Network now offers Zing, Zee Business, Zee Smile, Zee Kannada and Zee Marathi, in addition to the previously launched channels Zee TV(entertainment), Zee Cinema (Bollywood films), Alpha ETC Punjabi (regional language) and Ten Cricket (sports).

Chandra says Zee has carriage agreements with all of the top distributors in the U.S., save for DirecTV. Through its various pacts, Zee's various services are available to the 3.5 million South Asians -- the fastest-growing population segment, according to 2010 U.S. Census data -- who reside in this nation. While this group, which numbered 2.5 million in 2000, is expanding throughout the U.S., significant bases can be found in the New York tri-state area, Boston, Los Angeles and other parts of California, Miami, Atlanta, Dallas and Houston.

Zee TV's Subhash Chandra

Chandra, in an interview in Asia TV USA's New York offices last week, said conversations are ongoing with Comcast, Time Warner and Cablevision. "We are closest, perhaps with Comcast, for launches of the new network," he said.

Chandra says that although South Asians constitute just 1% of the U.S. population, they account for 4% of its purchasing power, a ratio not lost on some general-market companies.
"It's a very small group with a lot of economic clout. Mainstream advertisers like General Motors and Mercedes are recognizing that they can reach this audience" through the Zee channels, he said.

While aiming to secure linear carriage, Chandra said Asia TV USA, headed by CEO Suresh Bala Iyer, is open to making Zee programming available through myriad vehicles.

"When you speak to executives at U.S. cable, satellite and telco providers the questions come down to what is this business, given Netflix and over-the-top providers, going to look like five years from now," he said. "We are aware of the technologies and the checkpoints [on bandwidth], so we also are certainly considering video-on-demand, Internet and OTT options."

Chandra said Asia TV USA is well-positioned to capitalize on the growing array of video platforms, owing to its vast programming arsenal that encompasses over 100,000 South Asian programming hours, plus 1,500 movie titles. "It's a huge repertoire that we can draw from," he said.

Major portions of that library - and other programming strands -- are now on display via the recent channel launches.

Zing, available in the Hindi Mega Pack and Hindi Masti Pack on Dish's channel 674, is dedicated to every facet of the South Asian music and entertainment scene, while Zee Business is a 24-hour channel presenting news and current-affairs programs that is accessible on channel 644 on the No. 2 DBS provider's Hindi Mega Pack and Hindi News Pack.
As one would expect, Zee Smile is an entertainment channel featuring programs and movies that showcase comedy. It is available in the Hindi Mega Pack on channel 617.

For their parts, Zee Kannada and Zee Marathi are language-specific. The former is a 24-hour channel that offers a way for the Kannada-speaking Diaspora to stay connected to their culture. It is available in the Kannada Mega Pack on channel 643.

Zee Marathi is a Marathi-language entertainment channel that presents movies, reality shows and dramas. It is available in the Maha Pack on channel 619.