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Man-in-black coming to India

None | ByGurbir Singh, Mumbai
Jan 24, 2006 01:54 AM IST

Will Smith is coming not to promote his new movie title but to launch the third big Hollywood movie channel for India and S Asia, writes Gurbir Singh.

Man-in-black Will Smith is coming to India. Not to promote his new movie title but to launch the third big Hollywood movie channel for India and South Asia.

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Promoted by Sony Entertainment Television (SET), the channel, to be christened SET Pix, is expected to hit the airwaves by mid-February.

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"Our launch will kick off with a Will Smith festival -- all his best movies like Hitch, Shark Tale, I, Robot, Independence Day and Wild, Wild West," Kunal Dasgupta, CEO, SET, told HT.

In the new configuration for the South Asian market, SET Pix will source movies from the Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) library which includes Columbia releases too.

Pix will also have access to the MGM library. Sony Corp had acquired the studio in September 2004 for $5 billion.

Conversely, HBO South Asia - which was launched with licensing agreements with Paramount, Universal Studios, Sony Pictures and Warner Brothers in September 2000 - will lose the Sony/Columbia library.

The result: quite a channel war among the main protagonists.

A Sony source said HBO wanted to leave the Zee-Turner distribution network and join the Sony alliance.

"This is an attempt to nix the launch of SET Pix by some HBO partners, like Warner Brothers, who have an alliance with Zee," said the source. "But this time round, we're not taking HBO on board."

HBO has been doing quite a flip-flop ever since it launched in India in September 2000.

After initially being distributed by Turner International, HBO joined the Sony platform in January 2003. The marriage lasted just two years. In January 2005, HBO defected to the Zee-Turner alliance.

The MGM library of 4,100 films was earlier with Zee too. Following the takeover by Sony, Zee launched it own movie channel, Zee Studio.

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