Disney plans major push into local language programming in India

Walt Disney Co is poised to make a major push into local language TV programming in India, with plans to become the first foreign media group to release original, local language programs for the domestic children's TV market, the Financial Times reported on its website.

Just two months after buying Hungama TV, a rival domestic children's channel, Disney is working on two original, live action Hindi-language TV series to be shown on its Disney Channel, the report said.

'We'll have two shows on the air by the end of '06,' Rich Ross, president of Disney Channel Worldwide, told the FT in an interview.

In July, Disney bought control of Hungama for 30.5 mln usd and paid 14 mln usd for a 14.9 pct stake in UTV Software Communications, Hungama's Bombay-based parent group. Launched in 2005, Hungama is the second-most popular children's channel in the country's 30 mln usd a year children's TV advertising market.

While Disney said it could not disclose the working titles for the two new series, Mr Ross said they will be 'half-hour dramas telling different stories.'

The sums involved are still relatively small.

'We have two original programmes now being made here and we have yet to be able to strike a deal in China to make co-productions there,' said Mr Ross. 'We believe that day will come as well but I think that is emblematic of the difference right now.'

Disney launched its Disney Channel in India in Sept 2004 and three months later launched Toon Disney, its second major channel. The channels reach 30 mln households through satellite and cable networks.


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