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Executive Suite - Television's Top 20'04

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5. DR PRANNOY ROY, NDTV PRESIDENT

For taking NDTV India into a clear and undisputed second rung position behind leader Aaj Tak in the Hindi news space and successfully taking the company he and wife Radhika founded in 1988 public with a Rs 1 billion IPO.

The issue, which opened on 21 April, was oversubscribed 36 plus times when it closed on 28 April.

That Aaj Tak's English sibling Headlines Today is not seen as being of any threat to NDTV 24x7 despite its best efforts is also a statement to the kind of equity and positioning the channel enjoys in the market, which is not just about ratings.

And if Aaj Tak is credited with the first big expansion of the news channel market via its tapping of the retail advertiser, the NDTV channels could well be said to have led the second expansion of this genre to its current Rs 5 billion size.

The man's tenacity cannot be faulted. Nor his quest for perfection, well exemplified in the launch of NDTV's news channels and now the business channel Profit (launching 17 January), which might have got on air earlier if others had had their way.

6. CHRIS MCDONALD, TEN SPORTS CEO

For the killing his channel made on ad sales from the historic match-up between India and arch rivals Pakistan. Which in a way could be said to have paved the way for the bidding wars that erupted when the India cricket telecast rights were put on the block by the BCCI later in the year.

Ten renewed its rights to Sri Lanka cricket for $50 million. With the signing of the deal, Ten now holds cricket telecast rights for Sri Lanka, Pakistan, West Indies, as well as the rights to Sharjah and Morocco cricket.

And the luck of the draw also seemed to fall Ten's way on more than one occasion during the course of the year. None more so than the fortuitous manner in which it secured from national broadcaster DD the contract to produce the telecast for two international fixtures recently played in the country. It got the production contract as well as the South Asia (excluding India) telecast rights, all of which came as a bonus for the channel.

In hockey too, the Champions League in Pakistan (for which Ten has the rights) saw India participating as a replacement for Australia which pulled out citing security threats.

In terms of repercussions for the rest of the media industry though, there is the case in the Supreme Court awaiting a judgment around Ten being forced to share its feed with DD for the India-Pakistan cricket series. The outcome of this very critical case could well have a bearing on the very future of sports broadcast in India.

7. SAMEER NAIR, STAR INDIA COO

For keeping the Star juggernaut going while overseeing new launches.

And it was not just about tweaking shows on flagship Star Plus. Nair launched two channels in the course of the year, the free-to-air re-run channel Star Utsav launched in the first half of the year and the metro-centric Star One in the second half.

However, it was Star One really that was critical to Nair's action plan set forth at the beginning of the year. "We are looking at targeting new growth areas, a new push for ad sales and doing additional things like looking at launching new channels," was what he told indiantelevision.com at the beginning of 2004.

The verdict is still out on Star One though. While its programming has been appreciated, and it is delivering reasonable ratings, it has still to do what it was originally conceived for - flank out the opposition. And in Star One's case that opposition is clearly Sony Entertainment. And that Star One has not been able to do thus far. But as Nair said in a recent interview, "These are early days yet, but I think that this is a kind of channel and programming that will grow over a period of time."

All things considered, the man who "at an operating level, runs pretty much most things at Star" would probably view the year as having been a mixed bag. Which should offer some hope for rivals Sony and Zee in 2005.

8. TARUN KATIAL, SET INDIA EVP

For putting his all on the line in a make or break gamble on musical talent hunt reality show Indian Idol.

How Katial managed to swipe the show from right under Star's nose as it were, is a tale in itself. As the year ended the worldwide hit format was performing as per Sony's expectations and making Star sit up and take note.

What this also meant was that for the second year running, it was a Sony show that garnered the maximum brand recall on Hindi entertainment television. If in 2003, it was Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin, 2004 belonged to Indian Idol.

The reality format will continue to be a key programming proposition for Katial in 2005 as well with as many as six shows planned in the course of the year is what the industry grapevine tells indiantelevision.com. The first off the blocks in the New Year will be Dance Dance, which is ready for launch.

Katial's next big test however, will probably come when the show that is scheduled to replace Jassi (another adaptation) in March-April, debuts on the channel.

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