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Executive Suite - Television's Top 20'04

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17. AVEEK SARKAR, OWNER-PUBLISHER ANAND BAZAR PATRIKA GROUP

For putting his stamp of authority on Star News and planning launch of a Bengali news channel on his home turf Kolkata.

The exit of the high profile Ravina Kohli and the installation of Uday Shankar as head only goes to prove how the suave bhadralok has worked his way into total control of operations. Sarkar is not going to play puppet to Rupert Murdoch, particularly when he is sheltered by a government regulation that foreign holding in news channels can't go beyond 26 per cent.

Sarkar's increasing control clearly did not please Kohli. In a media interview, she lashed out against Sarkar. But that did not change anything. Quickly, Star News changed from a high-cost to a cost-effective style of operations. And bureaux were trimmed, wherever necessary.

Sarkar will hope his regional language news channel will leverage from his strong print presence in West Bengal. His road to expansion with Murdoch as a joint venture partner will be carved out this year.

18. RAJAT SHARMA, INDIA TV CHAIRMAN

For having the audacity (some would say temerity) to launch a seventh Hindi news channel India TV in an already crowded space, taking on established players that were themselves fighting tooth and nail to stay in the race.

Managing the transition from producer to broadcaster (he started out as a TV anchor) is no small achievement. For a man who has risen from living in a one-room tenement along with his parents and other siblings to a posh pad in the Capital's upmarket Pomposh Enclave in South Delhi and rubbing shoulders with the who's who of the country, Sharma, the print medium journalist-turned-TV personality, has certainly come a long way.

Coupled with a wide network of reporters, state-of-the-art infrastructure and a late-year exclusive content agreement with the controversial Arabic-language Al Jazeera, India TV still holds on to its aim to storm into Aaj Tak and NDTV India's bastions.

All these efforts definitely got India TV wah-wahs and some ratings too, but Sharma still has a ways to go to make that big leap to being a serious contender for the media planner's attention.

19. NP SINGH, SET INDIA COO



For being elevated as SET India chief operating officer, a post unoccupied for over three years after the exit of Rajesh Pant in a restructuring exercise.



He was made head of Max in addition to his old role of chief financial officer before he got the plum position of being second in charge after Kunal Dasgupta.

Max overtook leader Zee Cinema during his time, buoyed by marketing initiatives and bigger movies. But it was a temporary arrangement to fill in the gap after Rajat Jain quit to head Walt Disney.

Singh's new position comes at a time when Sony is also venturing into new areas of expansion like digital and licensing business to exploit new revenue streams. Broadcasters are eyeing cash flows from mobile and wireless, publishing and licensing. New content-delivery platforms like direct-to-home (DTH) and IPTV are also emerging. In this growth period, Sony needs an operational head which will allow Dasgupta to develop business growth areas.

Singh, however, is expected to play a bigger role when SET India finally decides to go for an initial public offering (IPO).

20. PRADEEP GUHA, ZEE TELEFILMS CEO

For making the switch to full time television after a career spanning three decades in print.

The former Times Group advertising head honcho and president (his last working day was Wednesday, 12 January) is joining Zee Telefilms as its new chief executive from 15 January.



The news of his exit from Times after 28 years, first broken by indiantelevision.com, is arguably the most significant executive hiring in the industry in 2004. That Guha should round off this Top 20 list is an indication of the personal equity he has in the industry. As also the sheer weight of expectations he carries with him to Zee going forward into 2005.

His long exprience in reviving moribund properties such as Femina Miss India and the Filmfare Awards into snazzy-must-watch TV events and his involvement in the Khalid Mohammed-directed film Fida could well provide him the all round perspective needed to drive Zee TV back to its glory days.

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