Executive Suite - Television's Top 20'04


For goading Zee News, a laggard in the news genre, into becoming a competitive force.

If Zee News has started showing signs of recapturing lost glory of late --- some heavily criticised stunts here and there notwithstanding --- credit should go to Laxmi N Goel, head of Zee News and one of the four younger brothers of media czar Subhash Chandra. After professionals like Rajat Sharma and Deepak Shourie opted out of Zee News, Chandra picked Goel to steer the fortunes of the news channel, a strategy that critics (with some justification) said had more to do with nepotism than a clear business thought process.

But hey? Goel has justified his elder brother's faith in him. With no prior experience in television or B school credentials, Goel's mantra is simple: "Keep your ears close to the ground and listen carefully to what the viewer is trying to tell you. Heed that advice."


Though Aaj Tak is the market leader amongst Hindi news channels and NDTV India has emerged as a strong No. 2, Zee News goes on unfazed with a belief that the numbers game is best left to the ad sales team and the editorial should work to the best of its ability. And Laxmiji, as he is popularly known, uses streetwise sense to guide a business that has floundered over the years.


For rejuvenating Zee Cinema and making events a key proposition for Subhash Chandra's network.

A mighty warrior in the cable TV industry, Yogesh Radhakrishnan was able to make his impact felt on the other front of the business. He rejuvenated Zee Cinema by changing the packaging and graphics of the channel to give it a more contemporary and modern look. "What we have done is to polish an already existing diamond," he says.

He took Zee Music up the scales, giving the channel a facelift. But having lost credibility with several re-launches in the past, the revamp under Radhakrishnan did not quite change the status of the channel; it continues to compete feebly against MTV, Channel [V] and its sister channel ETC.


Radhakrishnan, however, energised the Zee Cine Awards by shifting the award ceremony to Dubai, ferrying planeloads of Bollywood's best to the desert city, and injecting interesting creatives into the event. The net outcome: the Zee Cine Awards, which were languishing behind properties like the Filmfare Awards, are today considered awards worth their weight in gold.


He is now based in Dubai to handle Zee's expansion in the Middle East. An entrepreneur to the core, he also runs, along with his old mates Jagjit Kohli and Yogesh Shah, Pacenet, a company in broadband play.



For not only bagging lucrative programming contracts for her company BAG Films, but also launching a media institute situated on a swanky campus in Noida on the outskirts of Delhi to impart much needed training in television and media.

For a person who began as a trainee in the now defunct TV wing of the Press Trust of India slightly over a decade back, Ms Prasad hasn't done too badly.

Notwithstanding the fact that she is former I&B minister Ravi Shankar Prasad's younger sister and wife of Congress Member of Parliament Rajiv Shukla, Prasad's success story has got a lot to do with a can-do attitude. Just before the general elections when Star News gave her a big show on rural India, few thought she would be able to jazz up rural programming, while carpers claimed her contacts got her the deal.


Awards for BAG-produced Haqeeqat on Sahara One proves it's not a flash in the pan and the good ratings that Kumkum has got on Star Plus in the afternoon highlights serious work is being put in by BAG Films across a range of programming genres.

Year 2004 has actually seen BAG Films emerge as a serious supplier of TV content, breaking the stranglehold Mumbai-based houses working on an assembly line production mode have long enjoyed.



For expanding TV-18's activities into other markets, apart from South Asia, with the launch of South Asia World (SAW) in the US. SAW's next stop - the UK.

The unnamed investors who have bankrolled the venture is proof positive that critics who had said that TV-18 does not have the adequate strength to expand beyond what it was already doing were way off the mark. But that could also be because Bahl loves work and shuns unnecessary publicity, almost to a point that can make the media think he's reclusive.

Bahl does not mince any words when he says that the company was earlier in a consolidation phase after having managed to lay a strong foundation. So to hell with the critics (there are many) and stock market analysts who think there is not enough action happening in and outside the company for the TV-18 scrip to become the darling of the markets. A time for that will also come. As India's first business news broadcaster and a leading media content provider, Television Eighteen does seem to have put bad patches and experiences behind it.


2004 was also a time for preparing the way for the Hindi business channel, Awaaz, which has just launched. So Bahl has lots to look forward to in 2005.

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