In a surprise announcement this evening, journalist Rajat Sharma’s Independent News Service (INS) said it has received government approvals to launch a news channel in “Hindi and English”. The channel will go on air in six months, Sharma said in a statement, and will be headed by “one of the most live-wire and innovative editors in the business”. We have no guesses for now.
Sharma is one of India’s best known television journalists.
India TV Wiz, the new channel, will be a premium offering and will connect with new age audiences through its synergies with the company’s new media division, India TV Interactive.
The new project will likely create some 250-300 jobs, providing relief to at least some media professionals who lost jobs in a string of downsizings at media firms since the beginning of this year.
Sharma’s entry into the English news space–even though the new channel won’t be broadcast entirely in English–will be closely followed due to his track record.
Sharma launched India TV in 2004 and changed the game in the hyper competitive Hindi broadcast space within a few years. Launched into the midst of a tightly contested war for leadership between TV Today Network’s AajTak and MCCS’ Star News, India TV pushed the envelope and was blamed, fairly or unfairly, for precipitating a “race to the bottom” among Hindi news channels. (MCCS is short for Media Content and Communications Services, a joint venture between ABP Group and Star India.) To be fair, India TV is often at the forefront of breaking news and has done several important exposes and sting operations. The channel has found ratings success, and is often second only to AajTak.
The company also said it will join hands with a “world class partner” for international news. India TV had a brief content sharing arrangement with Al Jazeera.
We also thought it interesting that while media owners usually talk up their upcoming projects, Sharma and his team managed to keep this a secret, even though India TV is often in the spotlight for various reasons (including when suspected terrorists threatened to blow up the channel’s headquarters) and Sharma, a regular speaker at industry gatherings. India TV was most recently in news for its exit (and subsequent reconciliation) from News Broadcasters Association.
In 2007, a unit of US-based PE firm ComVentures acquired a 19.7% stake in INS for Rs50.9 crore. In early 2008, Bangalore-based private equity firm Shyam Equities Pvt. Ltd, picked up a 20% stake in the company for Rs100 crore, valuing the firm at Rs500 crore.