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It's a meeting of two media giants. The Times Group and BBC Worldwide have signed a formal agreement to set up a joint venture company to publish magazines in India.

Peter Phippen, MD, BBC Magazines (left), with Vineet Jain, MD, Times Group, at a press conference in Mumbai to announce a new 50:50 JV for producing and marketing magazines in India.

The 50:50 JV will produce and market magazines from both companies in India, and pave the way for the exchange of content, titles and know-how between the two media groups.

The Times Group's flagship magazines, Femina and Filmfare , both leaders in their respective categories, would be part of the BBC-Times joint venture.

Among the event properties of the Times Group, the popular 'Filmfare Awards' event would now belong to the JV, while the 'Femina Miss India' contest would be managed by the Times.

The MoU to set up the JV was signed in October '03 and the agreement to set up the JV company was signed on Wednesday. Currently, FIPB clearances for BBC's investment in the venture are awaited.

Speaking at a press conference, Vineet Jain, managing director of Bennett, Coleman & Co (BCCL, the holding company of The Times Group and publisher of the Group's publications), said the partnership between the two world's leading media groups "shows the opportunities for the magazine business in India".

"This joint venture marks a new beginning for both media houses. Together we will bring to our readers our collective skills and aim to successfully produce and market magazines that capture the pulse and mood of readers. BBC, which stands for integrity and quality plus the Times Group, the publishers of the world's largest English language broadsheet, represent a formidable combination," Jain said.

Investment bankers JM Morgan Stanley were advisors to the transaction on behalf of BCCL. Law firms Udwadia & Udeshi as well as Amarchand Mangaldas provided legal support.

The venture plans to take over the publishing of the 29 magazines currently published by the Times Group including Femina , Filmfare , Just Like That , Strategic Marketing , Shipping Journal and many other B2B titles.

Peter Phippen, MD of BBC Magazines, said the joint venture would be launching new magazines in India, but that would not necessarily mean transplanting the UK titles without localising content. "There would be significant growth potential in the Indian market over the next few years."

Jain earlier pointed out that the new, to-be-launched titles had not yet been decided. BBC Magazines, an arm of the BBC Worldwide, is the third largest publisher in the UK. Among its titles is the magazine Radio Times - a TV and radio entertainment guide that sells over a million copies - and other popular titles such as the auto magazine Top Gear and the teen Top of the Pops .

Specialist magazines were on the increase, while Filmfare , with a readership of 25.5 lakh, was the third highest among English magazines.

BCCL Group CFO Probal Ghoshal said that the JV would help unlock and improve the value of the magazine brands created by BCCL. Supporting the cause of magazine publishing, BBC's Peter Phippen pointed out that save one title, all the current BBC magazine titles had been launched in the past 15 years.

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