General entertainment channel (GEC) Imagine, formerly known as NDTV Imagine, which marked the Prannoy Roy promoted-NDTV channel's entry into Hindi GEC category and was later sold off to Turner Broadcasting, has shut down operations due to declining viewership.
"Imagine was not a distress asset when we looked at this acquisition in 2009," said Siddharth Jain, managing director, South Asia, Turner International. "All it needed that time was cash infusion. Along the way we could not maintain innovation and were not consistent with our success."
Jain refused to confirm if Turner was able to recover the Rs. 650 crore that it put for the Imagine acquisition.
"We are still in the market and India continues to remain an important market for Turner," said Jain.
Imagine, launched in January 2008 by NDTV, never really cracked the Hindi GEC category despite being led in its initial phase by Sameer Nair, who had propelled Star TV into the numero uno position.
For Turner, this was the second attempt to find success in the GEC space. Its previous foray, Real, in partnership with the Alva brothers, also failed and had to be shut down.
"The GEC market is a difficult space and very competitive. Everyone is looking at the same set of eyeballs making it a long-haul, with shorter gestation period for newer players. When the Imagine acquisition was made we had a long-term vision but something went wrong later," said Nair who quit as Imagine's CEO in May 2011.
Turner has 150 employees working for Imagine. The company is in talks with other channels to accommodate them in their organisations, even as it aims to retain a small number of employees for future expansion.
"It is obviously a shock but we have got no official statement and would like to wait and what happens next," said a an employee on condition of anonymity.
"No one knows why it happened and so suddenly. It is a shock and sad for all," said Sumeet Mitaal, a producer.
Turner has a bouquet of channels including HBO, CNN, Cartoon Network, POGO, WB, TCM and Boomerang.