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The diversity and the continuous growth in the Indian media and entertainment industry have been a matter of curiosity for global observers. The country has close to 650 television channels, more than 2,000 publications and more than 30 FM radio operators running 245 stations across the country. It sees the release of more than 1,000 films a year. This has no parallel anywhere in the world. Add to it the fact that there is still a long queue of aspirants wanting to hop on to this already crowded bandwagon. It leads to a legitimate question: Is media and entertainment a thriving business churning out billionaires in hordes? The answer is no.
On the contrary, we have seen astute businessmen such as Raghav Bahl, the promoter of Network18 Group, who in 15 years put together one of the country's largest broadcast news networks, struggling hard to stay afloat. His business, comprising some of the market-leading channels such as TV18, CNBC Awaaz, CNN-IBN, IBN7, Colors, MTV and Nickelodeon, had accumulated more than Rs 2,100 crore losses on a group revenue of around Rs 1,600 crore. In the wake of Reliance Industry 's proposed loan of Rs 1,700 crore, which may go up to Rs 4,000 crore, to Network18 Group, it is being speculated in the market that Bahl might have sold out his stake to RIL.
The story of many of Network18's rivals is not much different. The non-news players also have it tough as they operate in the midst of stifling competition and survive on thin margins. One of the country's largest and most profitable broadcast companies, Rupert Murdoch owned Star India, for instance, had profits of only around Rs 600-650 crore on a revenue of about Rs 2,500-2,600 crore in 2010-11. Most leading media companies in the country would be clubbed with the largest corporations in terms of their influence and recall but in terms of the size of their operations and the weight of their balance sheets, they will be categorised with medium and small enterprises.
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