TV and video people who made an impact in 2019 - Part II

The executives who've got a mission for 2020 too.

MUMBAI: Moving on to Part 2 installment of’s TV and video people who stood out in 2019. The first part was put out on 2 January 2020, and highlighted executives in random order. We will be following a similar tack in the second installment too. We scoured developments through the year and the role the executive played in bringing those to fruition. Their actions should have been impactful on the company they work with, and on industry.

We reiterate that best efforts have gone in preparing this list, and any misses are purely accidental, or out of ignorance; no malice is intended. The list is random - not in any order of importance.  Part 3 will follow soon. Read on:

Mukesh Ambani & Manoj Modi

Ambani and his college friend, and no 2 in Reliance Industries, Manoj Modi, were the talk of the town during 2019. The year saw Ambani roll out fixed wired broadband services under Jio Fiber. Lower-than-expected data and broadband costs is something Ambani has got us used to, so they don’t surprise us any more.

Ambani and Modi followed that dictum with Jio Fiber as well.

The year also saw them and the distribution team getting tied up with the assimilation of Hathway and DEN – two multisystem operators Reliance acquired in 2018.

Ambani continued to battle with Airtel and Vodafone with lower priced plans, and lured away subscribers from the two forcing them to bleed. Add to that the whammy hurled at them by the government regarding adjusted gross revenue (AGR) amounts payable which amounted to Rs 1.47 lakh crore for the sector. Both Vodafone-Idea and Airtel ran up humungous losses. Succor came towards the end of 2019, when all three agreed to raise data rates, something which is expected to benefit the three in terms of accruals.

The year also was the one when the group vacillitated between retaining its ownership of  Network18 and TV18 and dumping it to interested parties like Sony Pictures Network India. The news was that the deal was close to closure in early December 2019, but into the new year and announcements are yet to be made.

Sameer Nair

After redefining the TV industry in the first decade of this century, media veteran Sameer Nair has now taken on the bet of premium web content. The man who has seen the earliest phase of Indian TV industry now has been leading the resurrection of Kumar Mangalam Birla’s content studio Applause Entertainment.

Taking advantage of the Indian OTT explosion, Applause Entertainment delivered originals in 2019 to Hotstar, MX Player, SonyLIV, Amazon Prime Video and is in talks with other players as well for new projects.

Rather than building Applause as a production house, Nair has built it as a studio that is investing in content and working with the best talent - whether it is directors or producers or on screen talent.

Under his leadership, Applause Entertainment has already put out shows like Criminal Justice, Hostages, and  Hello Mini. More are being gestated and developed, and 2020 is likely to see some more of its offerings being rolled out with a greater impetus being put on content by the international and local streamers.

Nikhil Gandhi

Nikhil Gandhi was just your ordinary fast rising young TV executive with lots of enthusiasm and energy for his job at the Times Network, as head of its entertainment news channel Zoom and its production arm Zoom studio. But he was catapulted into the limelight towards late 2019, with his appointment as the Indian head of TikTok, a short form video user generated content app, which is the fastest growing amongst all in the Indian firmament.

TikTok is blazing a trail and the youth cannot get enough of it. In fact, a new star has emerged on the digital horizon – that of the TikTok influencer who competes with traditional celebrities, courtesy this Chinese app, which is part of ByteDance.

Mid-2019, its turkey, however, looked to be cooked with the government banning it from the digital stores in India, following the Madras high court saying it encouraged pornography and digital content. However, the court reversed its decision soon thereafter, and the app’s downloads continued to grow in a flood.

Gandhi is now in the hotseat at TikTok at a time when the world is grappling with monetising digital video- whether professionally generated or user generated better. At his disposal, he will have his experience as a man manager, a distribution executive, and later as a content creator. Combining that the with the digital insights from Chinese leadership at ByteDance, he could well take it on a higher trajectory in 2020.

Vijay Subramaniam

The once advertising sales exec today holds probably the most important position in content in India – that of the originals head of Amazon’s Prime Video offering. For the large part, he has kept out of the limelight. It’s to his credit that his international originals boss Jame Farrell has let him lead all the creative initiatives and take creative decisions in India.

And with reason: the soft-spoken bespectacled executive has done a stellar job so far. The digital shows he has commissioned are some of the better written, developed, and produced in India - Inside Edge Part 1 and II, Mirzapur, Four More Shots Please, Comicstaan, and Family Man. All of these received critical acclaim apart from generating oodles of buzz.

That – apart from the fact that a Prime membership promises overnight delivery - have helped accelerate subscriptions to the service. 2020 will bring its challenges for Subramaniam and his team. Netflix is aggressively investing in content, as are the other players like Zee5, Hotstar and Voot. The demand for good creators, writers is growing and there’s only a limited number who understand development for the digital space.

Gaurav Banerjee

Star India Hindi entertainment president and head Gaurav Banerjee – GB as he is known - has a long association with the organisation and ecosystem. A former TV news journalist and producer, he has, laong with his boss Uday Shankar, churned out TV shows for Star Plus and Star Bharat which have constantly ranked tops on the BARC ratings. In a world of digital intermediation, Star’s channels and TV shows  - some which have been running for thousands of episodes - continue to make waves with audiences.

GB’s creative and content expertise will be put to the test in the coming year as he has to sign up creators, and create cutting edge content for Hotstar Specials at lower budgets than that of the international streamers. So far what he has unveiled has generated some buzz amongst audiences and the creative community.

GB strongly believes in the power of storytelling, the flexibility of creators on OTT platforms. His focus on a variety of content can be seen in Hotstar’s content bank -  a sports documentary, a big edgy legal drama, thriller, comedy , and a female-centric drama. Banerjee is equally contributing to new age video content as he did to traditional TV.

Tarun Katial

Tarun Katial has had a career full of smash hits and his latest long-running date with the Zee group’s OTT platform Zee5 is no exception. Over the past two years, Katial has taken the platform to the top level in both the AVoD and SVoD segments. He has restructured the team and rebuilt business strategy with his boss Amit Goenka’s assent. His 3V strategy – vernacular, video and voice - has proved to be highly successful.

From striking deals with telecom players, a unique content deal with ALTBalaji, to engaging with top talents across the regions, bringing new tools for advertisers and consumers – Katial and his team have been proactive in reaching the audacious mission of 15 million daily active users (DAU). With its unique but massy content, ZEE5 can be a real threat to Hotstar.  

Danish Khan  

Sony Pictures Networks India’s Sony Entertainment Television business head Danish Khan is a typical backroom TV executive, who shies away from publicity, preferring to let his work do the talking. He has over the past couple of years kept a sharp eye on profitability at the channel he heads, keeping away flamboyant spending. Sticking to the knitting of delivering good non-fiction shows  - like The Kapil Sharma Show, KBC - which attract audiences in drove, he has helped SET stay at the top of the entertainment channel pie. Not that he has not experimented with fiction, just that it has not been as successful as his non-fiction initiatives.  

His good efforts were rewarded during the year; he was handed the additional  mandate of turbocharging its digital streaming initiative SonyLiv. A relative slow mover in the streaming sweepstakes, SonyLiv has a lot of catching up to do. And Danish – a lot of learning. But he has shown that he is up to the task, given the fact that he led marketing at the entertainment channel once and today he heads it.  

To help him in his SonyLiv responsibility, Danish has roped in the A-Team that works with him at SET, Ashish Golwalkar and Aman Srivastava.

Under his leadership the streamer is all set to increase its focus on subscription and original content while its business has largely been driven by advertising revenues and catalogue offerings till now.  

Nina Elavia Jaipuria

From heading marketing at Sony to heading Kids TV and Hindi mass entertainment at Viacom18, Nina Elavia Jaipuria has had an interesting journey.

In September 2018, she was entrusted with the additional responsibility of leading Viacom18’s Hindi mass entertainment channels, bringing Colors, Rishtey and Rishtey Cineplex under her purview.

Today, as head - Hindi and kids TV network, Jaipuria now leads two of the company’s foremost broadcast ventures. Under her leadership, in 2019, Hindi entertainment channels launched many fiction and non-fiction shows helping Colors stay on top, amongst the top three or four in the category throughout the year. The show Bigg Boss continued to make waves digitally in 2019, probably being one of the most talked about shows of the year.

In 2020, Jaipuria will continue to take the brands to the next level with bold, disruptive and empowering stories for respective channels.  

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