Sun DirecTV goes to All Asia

Malaysian broadcaster buys 20% stake
By PATRICK FRATERMalaysian satcaster Astro All Asia Networks is to invest $166 million for a 20% stake in the Maran Group's Sun Direct TV, which will be India's fourth satcaster TV platform.
Sun Direct TV will go live in the second half of the year. Maran, which operates the Sun Network group of channels, will hold 80%.

"At present, there are over 65 million pay-TV homes, and this market is expected to grow to over 150 million homes in the next decade," said Astro's CEO, Robert Odendaal.

Sun Direct TV will go up against the Zee Group's subscription-based Dish TV, a free-to-air service from pubcaster Doordarshan and Tata-Sky, which launched in August.

Two other groups are seriously considering entering the market, led by industrial groups Reliance and Bharti.

Sun, which listed on the Bombay Stock Exhange last year, is one of India's largest media groups with a stronghold in the south of the country.

It operates some 24 TV channels, 45 FM radio stations, a regional cable network and has a 12,000-title movie library.

Company has already locked horns with satellite incumbent Tata Sky, a joint venture between industrial giant Tata group and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Tata Sky is claiming that Sun should be prevented from broadcasting its channels on any cable or satellite network unless Sun complies with last year's tribunal ruling that says it must supply its channels on a non-discriminatory basis to Tata Sky.