'Once digitalisation happens, let a thousand channels come'

Concluding our three-part series of interviews looking at the year that was and on into 2008, we turn the spotlight on NDTV Imagine CEO Sameer Nair.

In a candid chat with Indiantelevision.com, the former Star Entertainment India CEO offers his take on the entertainment industry, why he feels the TV industry needs a kick up, the importance of not just ambling along, and the potential that 2008 offers.


What were the key points of reference which defined 2007? One would be for you personally and also if you could offer a sense of where the industry is in general?

Well, I left Star TV, in which I was working for about 13 years. But I think 2007 opened on a good note because we did KBC with Shah Rukh Khan and so I thought that was a good swansong of sorts for me. We also got Gajendra Singh from Zee to Star. He was with Zee for I think 16 years and so this was something equally dramatic.

So those were the last good things to do at Star. On a personal level it was of course moving on and setting up a whole new company, whole new business and preparing for the launch of a new channel.

2007 basically marked preparation for 2008?

Yes! As you can see, it's been all the pre-production and production. And now we get ready for release. So it's been a lot of that kind of hard work. It's been about team building… It's been about company building. It was about resource building and also financial resource building and putting it all together.

I think by the time indiantelevision.com puts up this interview we will have over 132 people, which is I think a good collection of people across all disciplines.

What were the positives that came out of this year?

One positive of course is there seems to be a lot of interest in all things media, in all things entertainment. So there have obviously been so many more players entering the market, so much more money being put into the market.

So that's obviously a good thing, industry per se. I think a lot of people have announced or started new ventures, which shows that there is obviously place for growth and a place for new players to get into.

There is some level of consolidation, there is some increased activity of international participation in local business. The movie business has gone through the roof.

But was it a good year for the business?

2007 was an interesting year because it, in my mind, remains a sort of a question mark. It will get resolved in years to come as to whether it was a good year or not. But everything is too close, so I mean this was the year where millions of dollars were pumped into the system. You know prices went through the roof, newer and newer players getting into it, each man with bigger and bigger claims and promises. Nobody talks the normal figures anymore.

Everything is in a super inflated scenario. It's like the wire where the string is really stretched. So whether it will be good or bad, it is hard to say now. Currently, everyone is into this valuation zone and everyone seems to be so rich.

The rollout of digital cable, which was supposed to proceed in a particular manner, did not go the way it ideally should have. Your views on this?

That is hardly a surprise. There was always this issue about how it would roll out and if it would be mandatory or voluntary. How does it all work? It didn't really come as a surprise that it didn't happen in A or B or C manner.

So effectively nothing of any real note happened?

No! There was no landmark legislation that occurred, there was no landmark regulation that occurred, there was no landmark activity.

I don't really think that there has been any major change. The world has not undergone a digital revolution, nor a mobile one.

On television, some shows are doing better than others. The gap between Star and Zee narrowed, Zee came within the whisker of Star, than it again fell back. Now it is again coming back pretty much as per calculations. But there was nothing outstanding. It was straightforward.

But for the industry in terms of sports, a lot happened.

Sports was an interesting thing that happened. That was pretty good if you look at the high priced acquisition of the ICC rights (by ESPN Star for $ 1.1 billion).

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