Who owns NDTV?
NDTV was the first 24-hour news channel in India. Starting with a news show, The World This Week, screened by Doordarshan in 1988, the husband and wife duo of Prannoy and Radhika Roy began their impact on Indian news and TV. The Roys were paid 2 lakh per episode; more specifically, their company was. Hello, NDTV (New Delhi Television Limited).
The show, and the anchors, presented Indian viewers a radically different way of news coverage which is now taken as a staple, but which was a revelation at that time; look at old Doordarshan news clips, and you will understand why. When foreign investors came calling, specifically Rupert Murdoch (of phone hacking-and-News of the World-infame), NDTV partnered with the media mogul’s Star network to launch Star News in 1998. In 2002, the five-year contract ended and NDTV went and set up its own channels, NDTV 24×7, and NDTV India. Cut to present.
What makes NDTV the biggest is not these facts; it is the fact that almost all of the main faces in news journalism came from here. Raveesh Kumar? NDTV India, and host of the excellent ‘Ravish Ki Report’. Arnab Goswami? Left in 2004 to head Times Now. Rajdeep Sardesai? Left in 2005 to set up CNN-IBN. Barkha Dutt? Consulting Editor, NDTV. Vikram Chandra? Executive Director of NDTV Group. Bhupendra Chaubey? Left NDTV in 2005 for CNN-IBN.
The ownership of NDTV rests with RRPR, a holding company consisting of shares owned by both Radhika and Prannoy Roy; note, apart from these, they own shares separately, as individuals too. The recent controversy surrounded the mystery of a company, VCPL (linked with Reliance through the now classic company-holding-another-company), giving an about 400 crore loan to NDTV , in 2009, in return for control over RRPR, and thus NDTV. Basically, it looked like Reliance buying into NDTV. Fascinatingly, this didn’t happen; the company, along with the ownership of the loan and the deal passed into the hands of another individual, Mahendra Nahata. The deal itself looks murky, as it was effectively paying 50 crore to Reliance for ownership of a company with 400 crore in its books. The deal, and NDTV as a whole, is explained 10 times better in this Caravan article
Is there a link with Reliance? Mr. Mahendra’s son, Anant Nahata, was the promoter of Infotel Broadband Services Private Limited (IBSPL). You see, this company bidded for and won 4G spectrum in May 2010. In June of that year, the company was renamed Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited. More reading on the deal can be found here.
All these shadowy dealings have now come out of the closet, and as of now, SEBI is investigating why NDTV failed to disclose information of any of these deals.
How fares the balance sheet?
As per its Annual Report 2014-15, the company reported a loss of Rs. 25.5 crores, down from Rs. 53.5 crores in the preceding period. The balance sheet has a total loss of Rs. 199.3 crores though.
Apart from the news, the company itself comprises of the website and app business, the business and lifestyle channels such as NDTV Profit/Prime (said to be India’s first 2-in-1 channel) as well as NDTV Goodtimes. It also has an ecommerce venture, indianroots.com. While TV ad spending has slowed down, the company talks of capturing digital and mobile ad spends. About its revenues, it also says that it ‘has been primarily contributed by sponsorship revenue on NDTV Prime for the different bands and the upside received from the elections’. Revenue includes advertising sales, subscription revenue, event sales and others. These are better summed up as (from the Annual Report itself):
- Advertising revenue includes sale of commercial time for broadcasting of commercials, sponsorship with reference to association with a particular channel, band etc.
- Subscription income comprises revenue from Cable and DTH service providers, Hotels and from international operations.
- Event sales are derived from special programmes or events linked to awareness campaigns for social causes.
- In others, includes sale of fixed assets.
All in all, not exactly a point where the poster boy of Indian journalism wanted to end up.
Next time, another channel.