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IBN and CNN end their 10-year association; Turner starts talks with Zee
MUMBAI: Mukesh Ambani-controlled TV18 Broadcast and Turner International’s CNN have decided not to renew their brand licensing agreement, ending their 10-year association that established CNN-IBN as a popular English news channel brand.
Also ending will be the news service arrangement for use of CNN news content. TV18 Broadcast’s deal with CNN concludes in January 2016, both companies said on Monday.
English news channel CNN-IBN will, thus, have the brand name CNN dropped. It is not clear yet whether TV18 Broadcast will continue with the IBN brand or replace it with another name running common across its clutch of news channels.
CNN, it is learnt, has initiated talks with Subhash Chandra-controlled Zee Media Corporation Ltd (ZMCL), which runs Hindi and regional news channels. Chandra has been toying with the idea of launching English-language news channels, both in the general and in the business news space.
“If there is a tie-up, it will be beneficial for both. It is not clear whether they would be exploring an equity option. ZMCL owns and operates all the news channels of Zee. So an equity arrangement would mean the setting up of a separate JV where ZMCL will hold at least 74 per cent stake due to government regulation,” a media analyst at a broking firm said.
CNN has not said what its growth chart in India would be. In a joint statement, both the companies said: “The conclusion of the arrangement will enable each company thereafter to chart its own growth trajectory independently in one of the most dynamic, complex and fast growing markets in the world.”
CNN’s international channel has a niche audience base in India. The local news channels have an overwhelming share of the market.
CNN has not said whether it wants to pursue alliances in the Indian market. “As the number one international news brand in Asia Pacific and the rest of the world, and the winner of multiple prestigious awards, CNN International, continues to lead and serve consumers in India with the best of global news content across multi-platforms,” said CNN International chief commercial officer Rani Raad.
How TV18 looks at the separation
The brand association with CNN helped in those early years when TV18 founder-promoter Raghav Bahl was in charge and was in the process of building an expansive media empire. But now the company is in the hands of India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, and the local brand has grown over the years.
Network 18 Group CEO A.P. Parigi echoes this sentiment. “At the launch of the channel, TV18 was a relatively small organisation; that has changed now. Network18 has grown from two news channels in 2005 to 17 news channels in 2015. Today, we have the largest footprint in the current affairs, regional and business news space in India. The TV18 line-up of channels today are well established and highly regarded in this dynamic, complex and challenging environment.”
CNN-IBN launched on 16 December 2005. TV18 entered into a brand license agreement with CNN, under which it got the limited, exclusive non-transferable right to use the name and logo of CNN in India. Under this agreement, CNN could add or remove elements from its licensed material as it deemed necessary.
The company also executed a news service agreement with Turner under which it got a limited, exclusive license to receive and re-broadcast CNN programming content in India.
Network 18’s general news channel business was earlier headed by leading television journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, who left NDTV to join Bahl’s venture.
“The last decade has seen a lot of momentum in the Indian media industry and has been particularly exciting for us. During this time, we witnessed two media houses coming together to redefine the way news is presented to a demanding audience; we at TV18 have benefited from this relationship with CNN,” said Parigi.
Agreed Raad. “We are very proud to have created CNN IBN in our decade long partnership with TV18. The channel was a pioneering initiative that combined the best of CNN’s global expertise with TV18’s journalistic and newsgathering capabilities.”
Sardesai quit the company following TV18’s acquisition by Ambani-led Reliance Industries. Global Broadcast News (GBN), which had the original agreement with CNN Turner International, later became IBN18 Broadcast and then TV18 Broadcast Ltd.
CNN IBN was at number three spot with a weekly rating of 148 in thousands, as per BARC ratings for all India: NCCS AB: Males 22+: Week 24: Individuals: C&S 1Lac+.
TV18 also has a brand licensing agreement with CNBC to run business news channels. On 13 August 2003, TV18 entered into a program and trademark license agreement with CNBC-Asia Pacific. As per this deal, TV18 can use CNBC’s name and logo for the production and broadcast of CNBC-TV18 until 31 March 2018.
TV18 operates a clutch of general, business and regional news channels like CNBC-TV18, CNBC Awaaz, CNBC Bajar, CNBC-TV18 Prime HD, CNN-IBN, IBN7, ETV channels and IBN-Lokmat, a Marathi regional news channel in partnership with the Lokmat Group.