New Delhi: English television news channel NewsX, launched less than a year ago by Indrani and Peter Mukerjea, has been sold to Vinay Chhajlani, an Indore, Madhya Pradesh-based businessman with interests in information technology, and new and vernacular media.
Chhajlani is chief executive of NaiDunia Media Pvt. Ltd, a company in which he holds majority stake and which runs Hindi daily NaiDunia. The daily has at least seven editions across the country, including New Delhi.
In July, Chhajlani launched a multilingual Web portal called Webdunia. He also runs a US-based technology and enterprise and Web solutions company Diaspark Inc.
Good deal: Indrani Mukerjea. Madhu Kapparath / Mint
NewsX will give Chhajlani a national footprint besides a toehold in the fast expanding television news space. “NewsX is an apt addition to our expanding media portfolio. So far, we have been present in vernacular media space. NewsX gives us an entry in the English media segment,” he said.
NewsX was launched in March by INX News Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of INX Media Pvt. Ltd, promoted by Mukerjeas along with a clutch of investors. Peter Mukherjea was formerly head of television media group Star India.
Indrani Mukerjea owned around 74% stake in INX News, including 5% employees sweat equity. The rest was held by INX Media and the investors.
Chhajlani, through a new company, Indi Media Co. Pvt. Ltd, has bought out all the investors in INX News. He has roped in Jehangir Pocha, the outgoing editor of ABP Pvt. Ltd owned English weekly, Business World, to head operations at NewsX.
“For the next one month, I will be part of the transition team at Business World and NewsX both,” said Pocha, who will eventually take over as NewsX’s editorial director. He also holds part stake in Indi Media.
Chhajlani declined to divulge the financial details of the deal. An executive from one of the two companies, who claimed to know the details, said Mukerjeas had invested around Rs80-100 crore in the news operations so far and have exited on par. Another executive, however, said the deal had been struck at around Rs260-275 crore. Both declined to be identified.
In the past few months, media industry had been rife with speculations that Mukerjeas were looking for a buyer for their entire broadcast operations. Citing two people in the know of the developments, Mint had reported on 5 December that Rajeev Chandrasekhar-owned Jupiter Entertainment Ventures was in talks with INX Media to buy out its news as well as entertainment and music ventures. INX Media runs a Hindi general entertainment and a music channel.
Indrani, however, said on Friday the company wouldn’t sell the other two channels in the near future. “We sold our news operations because we got a good proposition. There are no immediate plans to sell the general entertainment or music channels,” she said.
At present, there are six 24-hour English news channels in the country. According to Mumbai-based television audience research firm TAM Media Pvt. Ltd, in the five weeks ended 27 December, NewsX ranked fifth in the list with 9.5% channel share.
Times Now, CNN IBN, and NDTV 24x7 were the top three television news channels with 30.6%, 26.6% and 22.6% channel share, respectively, during the period.