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Zee to spread US wings with Comcast and Time Warner

Indian broadcast giant Zee Entertainment Enterprises hopes to triple its North American reach in 2012 if current talks with Comcast and Time Warner Cable prove fruitful.

The network's chairman Subhash Chandra said Zee currently reaches around 10 million homes in the US, and plans to expand this to between 35 and 40 million in the next 12 months. Around 2.8 million Indians live in America.

"Zee's trying to expand into the interiors of countries that have Indian diaspora," Ankit Kedia, an analyst at Centrum Broking in Mumbai told Bloomberg. "In North America, competition is getting aggressive - Zee is losing its stronghold there. The good thing is they are investing more and more in expanding distribution."

Zee has just announced it has created a $250 million fund to develop its New York-based Viera Living health and well-being network, a significant rise from its previous $100 million allocation.

The billionaire Chandra's Essel Group includes Zee Entertainment and India's first and most heavily subscribed direct to home (DTH) satellite TV service, Dish TV.

Like its larger media rivals, the company is also expected to make acquisitions in a more consolidated market as the Indian Government has mandated that cable operators must convert to digital transmission by the end of 2014.

There are thought to be over 100,000 operators in India's vast and fragmented cable TV network.

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