Rebecca Hawkes ©RapidTVNews | 18-07-2011

Multi Screen Media (MSM), owner of the Sony channels in India, is reported to be in the final stages of a buy-out of Ramoji Rao’s Eenadu TV (ETV), in what would be one of the largest media deals ever brokered in India.

Sony Entertainment Television will reportedly acquire 11 regional television channels from ETV in a deal worth between US$500-600, according to Business Standard – eclipsing previous high profile broadcast tie-ups between Disney and UTV, and Turner's buyout of NDTV Imagine from New Delhi Television.

MSM holds a 15% share of the Hindi general entertainment TV market with its channels Sony TV, SAB TV, SET Max, Sony Pix, AXN and Animax. However, with one Bangla entertainment channel, it only has a small presence in regional broadcasting. Its competitors Star India and Zee Entertainment are a far stronger regional proposition – the latter has eight regional channels, will the News Corporation-owned broadcaster runs Star Vijay, Star Pariah, Star Balsa and Asianet.

Over 25% of the INR 8,000 crore TV advertising spend goes on regional general entertainment television, with a 27.3% audience share, according to a Ficci-KPMG report.

ETV’s regional infotainment channels meanwhile, are available to viewers across India, as well as Indian expatriates in the US, who can tune into ETV Telugu, ETV Bangla and ETV Gujarati.

ETV’s 24-hour Telugu news channel, ETV2, will not reportedly be sold to Sony as it would fall foul of India’s foreign direct investment (FDI) rules relating to news broadcasting. ETV’s general entertainment channels have stopped broadcasting hourly news bulletins apparently in the run up to the deal, since there is a 26% FDI cap on news operations.

If it materialises, this deal will be the second foray MSM has had in channel acquisition. Sony has already added Sri Adhikari Brothers (SAB) TV to its stable - a popular Hindi comedy and entertainment channel which competes with Star One.