NEW DELHI – The BBC's BBC Worldwide Channels arm is pulling the plug on two of its channels in India, BBC Entertainment and kids channel CBeebies, which were launched five years ago.
The two channels will go off the air by the end of November. The broadcaster's only remaining channel here will be the long-running BBC World News.
BBC Entertainment aired such popular series as car show Top Gear, modern crime drama Sherlock and comedy shows like Come Fly With Me and Ricky Gervais' Extras.
“The decision to withdraw BBC Entertainment and CBeebies has not been an easy one; India is a dynamic and fast growing media market, but remains uniquely challenging for pay TV channels," said BBC Worldwide Channels Asia senior vp, general manager Mark Whitehead. "Specifically, delays in digitization and the need for channel operators to pay cable platforms for carriage makes the economics of running channels very challenging at this time.”
India's estimated 150 million TV homes are currently going through a major digitization shift, with the first phase of the switch-over process underway in four major cities - Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. The deadline for the first phase was Oct. 31 as set by a government directive after which analog signals by cable operators are to be switched off. According to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, over 91 percent of cable homes in the four major cities have been converted to digital. The nationwide digitization process is slated to be completed by 2015.
Despite discontinuing the two networks, Whitehead added that BBC Worldwide remains committed to India. “BBC World News – the BBC’s international news and current affairs television channel – continues to be available across the market, along with the bbc.com and bbchindi.com web sites, BBC Hindi radio and Global India, a new primetime program produced by BBC Hindi TV, which will launch on five ETV (domestic Indian) channels later this week," he said.
He added: "In addition, BBC Worldwide operates a TV production business, a content syndication business and Lonely Planet in India. The company is also evaluating the potential for a number of digital initiatives, which have been successfully developed in other markets. BBC programs will also continue to be available on other channels in India, both terrestrial and cable, as well as digitally on our YouTube channel.”