Beaming to the world

Business Standard/July 28, 2004
By Yusuf Begg

New Delhi -- Mata Amritanadamayi Devi, popularly known as Amma, is all set to start her own television channel. The channel to be called Amrita is likely to be commissioned on September 27 this year on the occasion of Amma's 51st birthday.

A company, Amrita Enterprises Pvt Ltd has been floated to run the channel. It is promoted by a group of Amma's devotees, quite a few of them being NRIs. The total investment in the channel is likely to be around Rs 50 crore.

"It's not going to be a religious channel," says S M C Pillai, CEO, Amrita. "It'll be a 24-hour commercial channel with programmes based on Indian traditions and values. Besides serials, yoga, travel shows, Amma's teachings, the channel will also have around five hours of news programming." Most of the programming would be done in-house.

The language of the programmes will be Malayalam though officials of Amrita Enterprises say that there are plans to have programmes in Hindi and English as well. News will be outsourced from wire agencies, which will later be supplemented by inputs from the channel's own bureaus.

Pillai says that most of the clearances have been received from the Central government. The Thiruvanathapuram-based channel will have three studios and an earth station. Work on these is near completion. The company has leased a transponder on the Intelsat satellite.

For distribution of the channel, Amrita Enterprises officials say that talks with local cable operators in south India have been finalised.

In north India, Siti Cable is most likely to distribute the channel. For distribution in Europe and US, where Amma has a sizeable following, talks with cable operators will begin soon.

Pillai says that he is confident that the channel will break even within a year of starting operations. However he's not willing to divulge details of his marketing strategy. All he says is that like other channels his team will target all advertisers.

Like a true spiritual soldier he says: "The point is not to make money. All we want to do is spread Amma's message. If the channel loses money Amma's disciples will pump in more."

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