Lead Story

Is the sun setting on Maran's empire?

Time is running out for Kalanithi Maran's once-invincible empire

In early July 2013, advertisers and media planners across the country received a bewildering missive from one of the biggest television players in south India — a statement from Sun TV that said the channel was hiking its ad rates for a 10-second spot from a little over ₹30,000 to a whopping ₹2 lakh. This bit of arrogance from the Kalanithi Maran-owned broadcasting network was thought to have emerged in response to a recent government regulation favouring a 10-minute cap on advertisements (plus two minutes of promos) for every hour of television programming, against 20 minutes earlier.

Since the new cap translated into a significant hit on revenue, Sun TV, which has managed to hold viewers’ attention for over two decades now, decided it would be easier to hike ad rates instead of implementing calibrated increases like other broadcasters.

This was not the first time the channel had taken such a bold decision — given its dominant position, Sun TV had, in the past, dictated price increases even during times of a slowdown. But this time around, the script was a little different — an immediate uproar ensued from the advertisers’ quarters, forcing Sun TV to revoke the change within a fortnight.    

Rising high and fast

In many ways, this is a reflection of how the broadcasting scenario has changed in Tamil Nadu, a state that brings in as much as ₹1,500 crore of television advertising revenue each year, 10% of the national pie of around ₹16,000-17,000 crore. From being in a position of clear dominance across genres in the state, Sun is facing a tough time from competitors, who are not just airing programmes with good content but are more amenable when it comes to dealing with advertisers.

If that was not bad enough, the Sun network is facing the heat in markets such as Andhra Pradesh and Kerala as well, ceding its numero uno position to channels that entered the market much later. 

Unfortunately, broadcasting is not the only beleaguered arm of 50-year-old Sun Network executive chairman Kalanithi Maran’s vast business empire. Maran’s aviation business — a sector he en


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