In the final installment of TV people who mattered in 2019, we take a look at executives who left an impact on the industry. As mentioned earlier, this is a representative list and by no means comprehensive. And it is in random order, with no order of importance in the listing. Read on and give us your feedback on our selection.
Discovery India was reeling from a failed foray into the factual general entertainment genre; it’s India boss Karan Bajaj had parted, when it turned to media vet Megha Tata to come and stabilise what looked like a rocking boat. Motivation was at a low with teams unsure of the direction the network would take. Professionals who had been brought in for the GEC foray had to be pared, the existing team for factual programming had to be given the confidence that all was well and would be going forward.
Tata – who changed her name from Monica to Megha a few years ago following guidance from her spiritual guru – has since done admirably. She has reallocated roles for senior managers, put in place her senior A team and Discovery Communications India looks set to be on a good growth path once again.
With an advertising sales and management background, Megha has forged and strengthened relationships with major advertisers. This at a time when the industry has been going through a severe slowdown. Along with her team, she has been working on launching new language channels, apart from unveiling its streaming app. Programming investments which were on a slow track are being ramped up.
Megha’s management and growth efforts will begin to yield fruit in the coming months. But for now, she has earned respect from her peers on the path she has taken.
Partho Dasgupta & Sunil Lulla
He finally did it. Partho, the former Times group professional, put in his papers at the ratings agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), bidding adieu to an organisation he helped build from ground up.
Said he at the time of his departure: “I have enjoyed my innings at BARC. Now it’s time to get some well-earned rest.”
What he did not say is that he was constantly torn apart between the carping and cribbing of the various broadcasters, someone or the other of who suffered at the hands of the weekly Thursday ratings death knell.
What happened at The Times group took place even at BARC. Sunil Lulla who replaced Dasgupta when he left The Times Network stepped into his shoes at BARC too. Sunil has his task cut of for him, he has to find solutions for diversifying the ratings firm into digital ratings, something which could not take off under Dasgupta as they could not get industry consenus.
For long Arun Poorie was the face of the India Today group, but over the past couple of years, it is his daughter Kalli who has come to the forefront, driving it into new areas, apart from consolidating existing properties. With her father as chairman, Kalli occupies the vice-chairperson’s position in a group which reaches a gargantuan 120 million plus visitors across all its properties every month.
A clutch of 20 digital first multiplatform channels – News Tak, Sports Tak, Bharat Tak, UP Tak etc – and The Lallantiop are some of the properties which keep the millenials engaged on their handsets. News channel Aaj Tak continues to be the top news service in an ecosystem, even as its YouTube version has crossed more than 20 million subscribers.
Then she runs the the print publications ranging from India Today to Reader’s Digest to Cosmopolitan to Harper’s Bazaar. Of course, there is the group’s globally well-known conclave which brings in business, political, art, scientific, leaders from all over the world, including India.
Sources within the group say, this despite, Kalli, an Oxford graduate in politics, philosophy and economics, who began her career as a journalist, is just getting started. Forays into esports, gaming, are being studied.
She was honoured with 'Outstanding Media & Entertainment Award' at the annual 21st Century Icon Awards in London two weeks before being awarded as a powerful woman in media in September 2019.
For the Anil Ambani group which has been struggling and sunk to its lowest in terms of revenues, a company that has been a shining star is Reliance Entertainment. Leading it has been Shibasish Sarkar who was elevated as chief executive officer — content, digital and gaming at the beginning of 2019. Shibashish joined the company as group chief financial officer in 2007 and has held several positions such as chief financial officer (over eight years) and chief operating officer (three years) since then.
He was instrumental behind changing the face of the company after setting up a joint venture business model with leading Bollywood filmmakers such as Rohit Shetty, Neeraj Pandey, Anurag Kashyap among others. The company has also been producing television shows through its division Big Synergy, animation shows for kids channels and digitial premium originals for channels as well as streamers such as Netflix.
He has put in place professionals of the likes of former Discovery marketing head Rajiv Bakshi as CEO of the TV division, and Tejonidhi Bhandare for the animation unit to help him accelerate the growth of Reliance Entertainment. All eyes will be on the upcoming theatrical releases Love Aaj Kal and Kabir Khan’s 83 which is on India’s win in the 1983 cricket world cup.
If before last year, one were to ask industry professionals about Karan Bedi, the answer would be Karan, who! But it’s no longer so. The son of filmaker Bobby Bedi came into his own in 2019 with the successful rollout of the Times group’s MXPlayer. As CEO of the streamer, he leads a team of more than 300 professionals. MXPlayer has more than 175 million active users in India and it ended 2019 with more than 280 million monthly actives.
With a recent fund raise of $110 million in his coffers, Karan is charging into launching digital video originals. The streamer already has 15 of them on the platform, 10 of them exclusive, with a plan to launch a score or more premium shows in the next four months in Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Punjabi, Bhojpuri and Bengali in partnership with some of the big industry players.
The young professional who has more than a decade’s experience as an entrepreneur and professional is also steering the service into music, gaming and international markets.
Aditya is the dark horse whom TV is finally beginning to take note of. The six foot seven inch executive – probably the tallest entrepreneur in the industry – reorganised his group in 2019 under the umbrella of In10 Media. It currently consists of EPIC TV – which many had written off – its OTT version EpicOn, free to air channel ShowBox, documentary app DocuBay, production house Juggernaut, and digital news portal Latestly.
With a family background in real estate, Aditya was an absolute stranger to media, cutting his entrepreneurial teeth as a national distributor of Patanjali products. It was then that billionaire Anand Mahindra called on him to partner and run the ailing EPIC TV. A quick learner, Aditya cobbled together a team of professionals with better experience than him and since then there has been no looking back.
He believes that the group is a work in progress and has just started on its road to growth.
Deepak Dhar is among the rising stars in India’s production landscape. Since convincing Marco Bassetti to have him as his equal equity partner for Banijay Asia two years ago, Dhar has produced more than 600 hours of content, 14 shows on air with another eight currently under production.
Amongst the shows: Hostages and Roar Of The Lion for Hotstar Specials, Parchhayee for Zee5, The Kapil Sharma Show for Sony TV, ARRived for YouTube, Nach Baliye 9 for StarPlus and Masters Of Taste With Gary Mehigan for FoxLife.
This aside, Dhar has forged strategic partnerships with actor Salman Khan’s Salman Khan TV to create linear broadcast content and digital formats, as well as cricketer MS Dhoni’s production banner for premium content for multi-platform distribution in India and Southeast Asia. A deal with GroupM’s Motion Content Group has also been signed.
The much experienced former Star India and Endemol Shine India executive, has his eyes on expanding into south east Asian countries like Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia. He believes he can use India as a production hub, creating content in different Indian and Asia languages for the region.