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RBNL’s English GEC dream comes to an end as JV with CBS is called off

RBNL ran three channels – Big CBS Prime, Big CBS Love and Big CBS Spark – under the JV, which have gone off air. It will now focus on building the Big Magic brand in the regional markets

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | January 16, 2014

rbnl-cbsThe English GEC dream of Reliance Broadcast Network Ltd (RBNL) has come to an end, at least for the time being. RBNL’s joint venture with global media conglomerate CBS Studios has come to an end, as of December 31, 2013, after lasting for over three years, during which RBNL ran three channels – Big CBS Prime, Big CBS Love and Big CBS Spark.

When contacted, RBNL declined to give a formal statement on the parting of ways with CBS. However, sources in the company confirmed that the JV had ended. The joint venture, called Big CBS Networks, was mainly drawing content from CBS. Big CBS Prime was available in dual feed of English and Hindi while Big CBS Love was aimed at the urban English-speaking audience.

A source in RBNL, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “We will focus on our Indian channels, Big Magic and Big FM. Our forte is regional.”

When asked why the JV came off, the source said, “The business environment was not what we expected. It was a business decision and the parting was mutual.”

There were tell-tale signs for the last few months that not all was well with the future of the Big CBS channels. Anand Chakravarthy, who was Business Head of Big CBS Network, and had been associated with RBNL since its inception, quit in the last quarter of 2013. Chakravarthy was in charge of overall P&L and brand development for Big CBS Prime, Big CBS Love and Big CBS Spark. He was also Chief Marketing Officer of RBNL.

And the winding-up process appears to have been on for the last few months. On October 25, 2013, a mail was sent to DEN, a major MSO, advising: “Please treat this mail as our 21 days notice to terminate the Big CBS Prime carriage deal across your networks in UP, Delhi, Kolkata. Please switch off the channel on expiry of this notice and return the IRD’s. We will clear all your dues till the end date of this notice.”

The source said the company will now focus on the Big Magic brand. Big Magic has a strong presence in Central India, and has steadily expanded its reach across the Hindi-speaking markets. The brand has been extended by way of the launch of Big Magic Bihar and Jharkhand. It has also been launched in the US and Canada.

RBNL also has an ongoing 50:50 JV with Europe’s RTL Group through which it runs an action-oriented channel, Big RTL Thrill, targeting male audiences. It is available in dual feeds of English and Hindi.

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