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NDTV's Rajdeep Sardesai & Sameer Manchanda set to tango with TV 18; joint venture on anvil to start English news channel

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NDTV's Rajdeep Sardesai & Sameer Manchanda set to tango with TV 18; joint venture on anvil to start English news channel

It was as big as Breaking News could get when we first put out the information early afternoon yesterday. According to reliable industry sources, NDTV's Managing Editor, Rajdeep Sardesai, and Director on the NDTV board, Sameer Manchanda, have decided to part ways with the premier news network promoted by Prannoy Roy. However, right through the day all parties concerned in this sudden development remained tight-lipped about the turn of events.

So where are they headed? While all the players ducked an answer, the information coming from sources close to all the parties indicate that Sardesai and Manchanda are on the verge of shaking hands with Raghav Behl of TV 18. These sources aver that Sardesai and Manchanda are finalizing the blueprint to set up a joint venture with TV18 that will launch an English news channel.

It appears that despite talks with Sardesai and Manchanda late on Wednesday night and a meeting again on Thursday morning, Roy has not been able to convince these two long-time colleagues to stay back.

Formerly of The Times of India, Sardesai moved from print journalism to television news when he joined Prannoy Roy's NDTV in the early 90s. Sardesai came into his own when NDTV used to run Star Group's news channel, Star News. Rated as among the most experienced and recognized television journalists in the country today, Sardesai has been a major pillar in NDTV's rise to prominence. An astute political commentator and veteran anchor, he continues his association with print by writing a weekly column.

For the charismatic Roy, the first face of Indian television news, this indeed is a setback as most of his key anchors and journalists have stuck with him through the years. Even when he snapped ties with the Star network to start his own English and Hindi channels, his top editorial stayed with him. Sardesai is only the second well known name among his anchors who is parting ways, the other being Arnab Goswami who joined Times Television last year.

Manchanda too is an NDTV veteran. A Chartered Accountant, he has been closely associated with NDTV since its inception in 1988, and is reputed to be the financial whiz-kid in the company. He has considerable experience and expertise in strategic and financial planning, corporate finance, capital structuring and restructuring, funding, business valuations, media sector operations, mergers and acquisitions, collaborations and joint ventures. Manchanda is playing a key role in the negotiations with TV 18 vis-à-vis the formation of the joint venture.

For the record, TV 18 runs two channels in India, CNBC-TV 18 in English and Awaaz, a Hindi business/consumer channel. Raghav Behl has also promoted a separate company that runs South Asia World, a channel catering to the Indian diaspora in the UK and the US.

Again, for the record, on April 14, 2003, NDTV simultaneously launched two 24-hour news channels, NDTV 24x7 in English, and NDTV India in Hindi, which targets the Indian diaspora across the world.

But the dogfight between the two news channel majors really began with the launch of NDTV Profit, a 24-hour business channel, in January this year. It is a different matter that NDTV Profit and CNBC-TV18's Awaaz were launched around the same time. The genesis of the intense rivalry and battle for TRPs lay in the fact that Profit symbolized a one-to-one competition with CNBC-TV18 in the English business news segment.

Media observers point out that TV 18 is keen on starting an English news channel in order to be able to do a 'Profit' and take the fight to NDTV 24x7 in the English news segment.

Sardesai may have just written the script for a vicious English news channel 'Big Fight' in the weeks to come.


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