Happy endings are for movies. Not movie channels.
At least not for movie channels owned by Bennett Coleman & Company Limited (BCCL), otherwise known as the Times Group.
Times, one of the largest media houses in India, has come to terms with this. For at least 6 months, it has been working hard to find a buyer for its English movie portfolio, according to three people directly aware of the matter. It even engaged an outside firm to conduct an exercise on how best to structure a potential sale, so as it minimize its tax outflow on the gains. On offer were all seven of its English movie channels—MN+ HD, Movies Now and Movies Now HD, Romedy Now and Romedy Now HD, and MNX as well as MNX HD. “The idea was to raise money by exiting this portfolio and use it for a different purpose,” said one of the three people, asking not to be named.
But, after months of unsuccessfully searching for a buyer, Times is going in a different direction. A source aware of the matter said that Times has begun a process of internal restructuring in recent months to raise the capital it requires. But if a property owned by the country’s leading media house couldn’t be sold after months of trying, the most obvious assumption is that there’s a problem with the portfolio. In this case, that assumption is accurate.
The Ken reached out to the Times Group to confirm these developments. In an e-mailed response, Times Group stated that the company had “neither initiated any sale process of our TV businesses nor appointed anyone for the same. We are not engaged in any discussion to sell any of our channels. BCCL is committed to its TV business.”
English-language entertainment, industry-wide, is a loss-making business according to industry executives. This explains the lack of interest from buyers. Now, Times is at a crossroads. While it has chosen to undergo an internal restructuring, should Times exit the business altogether to cut its losses instead?
Times, then. Times, now
Prior to 2011, the only channel Times had in its entertainment bouquet was Zoom, a Bollywood music and entertainment channel. Back then, only a few broadcasters like Star India and Sony Pictures offered English content through channels such as Star World and Sony Pix. Other media companies such as UTV Network, Fox Entertainment and CBS Studios were also getting into the sector and were beginning to build their English entertainment and movie portfolio. Times joined the party by launching Movies Now in 2011.
Movies Now proved to be the first in a string of English movie properties launched by Times through its TV subsidiary Times Television Network.