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Executive Suite - Television's Top 20'40

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Maximum Impact! That is the principal criteria that has decided indiantelevision.com's definitive Top 20 list of the people who mattered in the television firmament in the year that was. This list is not about business as usual but those who made a difference, sometimes even in a negative sense. Read on...

1. SUBHASH CHANDRA, ZEE TELEFILMS CMD

For making a hugely extravagant $ 260 million punt on India cricket that blindsided the competition.



With this, Zee Telefilms CMD Subhash Chandra announced to the world that this time he would not be denied in his intent to get into the one area of the broadcast space that he has been unable to corner thus far.



And if we keep referring to $ 260 million, which was the first bid put in by Zee for the India rights (still $30 million higher than rival ESPN Star Sports' $ 230 million) there is a reason. It is because while the maverick media baron may have finally committed to paying a humungous $308 million (plus $ 21 million for the development of domestic cricket), there is no doubt in anyone's mind that Chandra would have legally challenged the extra $48 million in due course.

Still, when it comes to making big punts, there are few better at the game than the beedi-smoking, goateed CMD of Zee Telefilms. And he has everything to win and nothing to lose from this gamble. Whatever happens, one cannot envisage Zee going below the number three position in the pecking order that it currently occupies.

Chandra has been trying for some years to help Zee regain lost glory but has failed. Cricket could well give him that chance. And if he does succeed in getting onto the cricket bandwagon, one man who will be charged with the responsibility of monetizing the property would be Pradeep Guha, the Times Group's former advertising head honcho and president who joins Zee on 15 January.

Guha's hiring is arguably the most significant executive hiring in the industry in 2004. And is just another statement of Chandra's serious intent to get his network back into the reckoning big time.

For Year End interview with Subhash Chandra, Click here.

2. PRADIP BAIJAL, CHAIRMAN TRAI

For a whole host of regulatory diktats that may have thrown the broadcast industry into turmoil in the short run, but which laid the groundwork for discipline and order coming into an industry that has not seen much of either.



With new content delivery platforms like DTH and IPTV and the slow move towards an addressable regime, no one can argue with conviction that a regulatory framework is not needed. The BIG IF in all this is how will this whole process be managed in a manner that does not restrict the industry's growth?

As a broadcast and cable regulator, he may not be considered close to the present I&B minister Jaipal Reddy, who has his own ideas on regulation, but Baijal has made sure that Trai is kept in the news.

He started 2004 by freezing cable prices and ended the year with okaying a minor hike. In both cases, he attracted criticism. "It's okay by me when people, especially the industry, criticise me. I am here to see that things run smoothly and that consumers don't get fleeced," is his riposte to critics.

That Baijal and Trai will see more controversies in 2005 is a given if ever there was one.



3. KS SARMA, CEO PRASAR BHARATI

For managing matters cricketing in favour of national broadcaster Doordarshan.



If one were to point to only one thing that that DD achieved in 2004 that was worth crowing about, it was on the cricket telecast front. If the year began with Sarma in a face-off with Ten Sports on the telecast of the historic Indo-Pak cricket series in Pakistan, it ended with DD coming up trumps against ESPN Star Sports in a similar wrangle involving an Indian test team visit to lowly Bangladesh.

If India finally ends up with a downlink policy that would make it mandatory for certain listed events to be made available to DD and AIR, irrespective of who holds the telecast rights, Sarma will have had a big role to play in its happening.

If the face-off with Ten Sports, still pending a final verdict from the Supreme Court, put Sarma in the spotlight for "all the wrong reasons", what no one can crib about is the fact that the much-touted DD Direct Plus, a free DTH service, also got off the ground in 2004. No wonder Sarma exults, "We can actually look back on 2004 with satisfaction. The DTH service is certainly a big thing for Prasar Bharati despite the media being very critical of it."



4. KALANITHI MARAN, SUN NETWORK CHAIRMAN & MD

For continuing to rule the roast in South India. For not being content with just that and announcing that he has set his sights on new terrain: first Bengal with his Bangla channel and next possibly other lingusitic states, including the mass Hindi belt.

Hedging his risk, he signed a $25 million joint venture with Malaysia's Astro All Asia Network to pan out his expansion. The JV will originate, aggregate and distribute television programming and channels for a global audience.

Unchallenged as the the southern TV market big boss, Maran aims to create content for filmed and other entertainment products in Indian languages including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi and Bengali for distribution to international markets.



He will also use the JV to develop a Tamil language channel for distribution on the Astro direct-to-home (DTH) satellite multi-channel television platform in Malaysia and other South East Asian markets.



The Bangla channel will launch in April and will be distributed in India, South East Asia and other markets within the Bengali diaspora.

Maran has won the battle on his home turf. He has now set himself the target to win the game outside, both internationally and domestically.

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