New Delhi: Taking a cue from the success of its peers such as Network18 Media and Investments Ltd and UTV Software Communications Ltd, broadcast firm New Delhi Television Ltd (NDTV), is diversifying into the film production and distribution business. The broadcaster is entering the film production business through an affiliate company, NDTV Imagine Ltd.

NDTV Imagine runs an eponymous general entertainment channel in Hindi which was launched in January.

Mainstream target: NDTV Imagine CEO Sameer Nair.

NDTV Imagine plans to produce at least four mainstream Hindi films in the next one year. The films will be co-produced with film producer and distributor Manmohan Shetty. The first film under this initiative will go on production floor by July and is expected to be released in 12 months, said NDTV Imagine CEO Sameer Nair.

“Imagine is an entertainment venture. The general entertainment channel has become a strong player in the market and now, we are moving to the next phase of the business, which includes Hindi film production and a world cinema business," Nair said.

Shetty was the promoter of Adlabs Films Ltd, which he sold to the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group. He resigned from the board of the company in October.

The firm’s first film, a co-production with Shetty and National Films Development Corporation, is already on the floors, Nair said. “It’s a small, sweet film called The White Elephant, being directed by Eijaz Khan. It should be ready for release in October," Nair said.

The film production business will be yet another step in the diversification of NDTV, which started out as a news broadcaster. Another of its affiliates, Alliance Lumiere Pvt. Ltd, the company housing the world cinema venture of the group and majority owned by NDTV Imagine, is all set to release its first movie in Spanish, titled Orphanage, on 30 May. The firm has tied up with multiplex chain operator PVR Ltd for the exhibition of the film.

“We plan to release 60 films in the first year," said Sunil Doshi, a film expert who holds 20% stake in Alliance Lumiere. NDTV Imagine holds 51% and Shetty holds 29% stake.

NDTV Lumiere brand will also distribute non-Hollywood films through home videos and pay-per-view on direct-to-home platforms. Alliance Lumiere eventually plans to launch a world cinema channel. “We have bought about 300 movies. The channel should be ready for launch by July-August," Nair said.

NDTV Imagine is also likely to bring to India at least three channels from the stables of partner NBC Universal by the end of 2008, Nair said. “We are looking at (launching) sci-fi (science fiction shows), 13th Street (action). Bravo (lifestyle) and Universal (movies and soaps)...," Nair said. “But, nothing is final yet."

In January, NBC Universal Inc., the global entertainment giant majority owned by General Electric Co., picked up a 26% stake in NDTV Networks Plc., the UK-listed non-news business division of NDTV Ltd.

NDTV Imagine is a subsidiary of NDTV Networks.