Kerry Packer is trailing Rupert Murdoch's footsteps in India where he is negotiating to launch an international sports and events channels with Subrata Roy's Sahara Group.
Packer arrived in India on Monday (March 27) for a three-day visit during which he announced his intention to invest $200m in television and entertainment dot.com start-ups. These will include a sports and events channel - in partnership with Sahara Group and as-yet-unnamed partners from Pakistan and Sri Lanka - which is scheduled to launch in the next six months. Copyright holders of international sporting events are likely to be offered equity in the channel in lieu of royalties. Although the channel is primarily sports-driven, it would also air entertainment events including concerts.
On Tuesday (March 28), Sahara launched a $40m Hindi-language entertainment channel, Sahara TV, which is being beamed from the AsiaSat-3S satellite and uplinked from Singapore. Sahara has acquired rights to 150 Indian movies and plans to broadcast one a day. The company also plans to launch a movie channel in June.
Meanwhile, Packer-owned Australian broadcaster Channel Nine is also likely to open a television production facility in India after winning a two-year $4.5m production contract to produce cricket coverage from Indian broadcaster Doordarshan (which will be renamed Prasar Bharati Corporation when it gains autonomy on April 1).
Separately Packer has also unveiled a $250m venture capital fund to invest in information technology and ecommerce ventures in partnership with Indian telco Hindustan Futuristic Communications (HFC) and private Indian investor Ketan Parekh. Packer recently acquired a 10% stake in HFC for $238m.
Packer's rival Rupert Murdoch also recently visited India on a five-day tour during which he stated his intention to launch six regional-language channels on the Star TV platform, invest in Indian Internet ventures and open a $100m film and TV production centre in Mumbai (Screen International March 17).
Last week, it was revealed that Star TV is taking a 12% stake in Indian broadcaster United Television, and has formed a strategic alliance with the company to jointly produce content for theatrical, TV and Internet exploitation.