Executive Suite - Television's Top 20'04



For making the big leap to Walt Disney to head its diversified operations in India.

Contending for that coveted crown were Sunil Lulla from Sony and Alex Kuruvilla from MTV, among others.

What stood in his favour was the way he widened the audience base for the ICC Cricket World Cup with an extended band of programming before and after the match to lure female audiences. Sony managed to push its distribution and advertising revenues on the back of not only the live cricket telecast but also cashed in on Mandira Bedi who stood out on a show called Extraa Innings.

Jain launched the two Walt Disney channels in December 2004, soon after Star struck a distribution deal. So far, it has been a low key affair with distribution being the main focus. The channels will have to find a way on cable networks before Disney opens its purse and starts spending heavily on advertising.

Slow and steady growth seems to be the approach. Jain does not want to rush things by paying carriage fees to cable networks, a precedent he feels will do more damage in the long run.

Jain has the opportunity to prove that he can weave the Disney magic among Indian audiences. He needs to be given time to tell us how the final story will evolve in India.


For daring to take on the might of well-entrenched global players in the kids genre with Hungama TV.

He defied the laws of gravity and drew up a programming lineup which focussed on live action rather than animation.

His other innovation included using kids as a research input for shaping the channel's content. He put kids on the creative board to decide on the kind of programming that should go into the channel.

Hungama TV has garnered 5 per cent audience share in the kids genre within just three months of launch, running ahead of Animax and Nickelodeon.

Screwvala promised to take UTV public, but the initial public offering (IPO) never took off. He sold UTV's stake in Vijay TV to Star Group, cleaning up the losses that his company incurred from the broadcasting business.

Perhaps he will be less cautious this year and finally manage to see through UTV's IPO for raising resources to expand his content and broadcasting business.


For continuing to reign as the Queen of Soaps in Indian television and getting Star to take a hefty stake in Balaji Telefilms.

Her shows on Star Plus dominated the ratings and Balaji remained the top production house in India.

Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii and Kasautii Zindagi Kii sustained their dream run for the fourth year with new twists and turns. Her experiment with thriller genres met with limited success.

No surprise that Star Group found Balaji Telefilms a lucrative catch and invested Rs 1.23 billion for a 21 per cent stake in the company. Confirming this strong confidence on the Hindi entertainment soap factory was Star Group CEO Michelle Guthrie, who was quoted in a recent interview to World Screen News as saying: "The people at Balaji are so focussed, with their attention to detail and quality. We've worked together for four years already, but I think going forward it's going to be pretty extraordinary what we can do together."

How the script of Balaji Telefilms' growth with Star as an equity partner unfolds this year could well be the production house tale of 2005.


For finally taking the plunge out of the safe environs of the print space in which the Times group has been safely navigating all these years into an uncertain future that is television.

The launch of non-fiction entertainment and lifestyle channel Zoom in 2004 was meant to be the first of a number of channels the group hoped to launch. If it all works out according to the script that was written down at the concept stage, the Times aims to build on its print media assets to form a bouquet of unique and different television channels.

The next course on the menu are a spiritual channel and a "broadbased" business news channel that will leverage the Economic Times brand. That is the plan. Zoom's trajectory hasn't exactly been going to script. So whether that will have an impact on how the two "next-in-line" channels roll out will be known in due course.

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