- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 18, 2010

MUMBAI, INDIA (AP) - A unit of CBS Corp. said Wednesday it has formed a joint venture with billionaire Anil Ambani’s Reliance Broadcast Network to launch television channels in India, joining a host of foreign broadcasters hoping to tap a fast-growing market.

Three English channels will start broadcasting in October 2010 and the venture would have programming rights across India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Pakistan, the companies said.

Viacom Inc., Time Warner Inc., Walt Disney Co. and News Corp. have already jumped into India’s TV market, which is expected to grow at 15 percent a year to become a 521 billion rupee ($11.4 billion) business by 2014.

Television is the largest segment of India’s entertainment industry, with revenues of 257 billion rupees ($5.6 billion) in 2009 _ nearly three times what the much-hyped Bollywood film industry pulled in, according to KPMG.

Reliance Broadcast Network said it would be pairing its understanding of Indian entertainment and advertising preferences with CBS’s expertise in producing content.

The channels will broadcast series such as “Hawaii Five-0,” “The Defenders” and “Blue Bloods” as well as current CBS shows like “CSI” and “Entertainment Tonight” via cable or satellite. The joint venture will also look into owning or operating channels in Hindi.

“The opportunities for growth and all of the data that support those facts are obviously staggering,” Armando Nunez, president of CBS Studios International, said at a press conference.

KPMG says India’s TV audience has grown to 500 million viewers _ still just 60 percent of households _ and the number of channels has mushroomed from 120 in 2003 to over 460 in 2009.

Another of Ambani’s companies, Reliance Big Entertainment, last year paid $325 million for a 50 percent stake in Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studios.

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