Once the conversation was about Zee TV, that it was difficult for the channel’s head to last for over a year, and now it seems to be the case with the industry per se, by that I mean the Hindi general entertainment (GE) broadcasting industry. We are only in the fifth month of 2011, and the year has already seen some significant changes in the leadership positions of Hindi GECs.
Sony Entertainment Television saw Ajit Thakur replaced by Sneha Rajani – MSM’s dependable hand who prior to Sony, was in-charge of Max. Next, we heard Rajesh Kamat quitting Colors and Viacom18 bringing in industry veteran Raj Nayak to lead the channel. And now, another high-profiled move has happened with Sameer Nair leaving Imagine, and the channel being placed in the interim charge of the Network.
Turner does not seem to be in a hurry to announce a CEO for Imagine yet. Then again, once integrated with the parent network, perhaps a CEO would not be needed for Imagine so soon. In some ways, that is true also for STAR India and Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd that have leading Hindi GECs Star Plus and Zee TV.
STAR India took the smart step of not appointing a Star Plus head as such - in fact, Star Plus does not even have a Programming Head, but a creative team led by none other than STAR India CEO Uday Shankar. Of course, Sanjay Gupta is in charge of Star Plus, but when it comes to Content, Shankar is the final word.
ZEEL has Punit Goenka as head of Zee TV and once again, there is no programming head, but a content team that reports directly to Punit Goenka.
Both Shankar and Goenka are responsible for the 20-odd channels of the Network, but they take out the time and the energy to spend on the flagship channels knowing too well the key role that Hindi GE plays in their networks.
STAR One and Sahara One are playing lower in the order in the Hindi GE space, but just this month, STAR One lost its business head Nikhil Mirchandani. And Sahara One is another channel that has found it tough to keep anyone at its helm.
SAB, one cannot classify as true Hindi GEC, because of the brilliant move Multi Screen Media took when the channel embarked on the light-hearted content route. SAB has a channel head (Anuj Kapoor) and a programming head, but by some tact, the channel has managed to keep pressure away from its every day ops.
This year specifically, Hindi GE has found it very difficult to hang on to respective channel heads. In the first instance, one would guess the reason to be the high-staked, and hence the high-pressured, nature of the game. But then again, Hindi GE was never for the faint-hearted, and perhaps this was the reason why STAR and Zee evolved to the way of working that we see today. In broadcasting, if being in news channels meant power, being in Hindi GE meant clout of another level. Not only does it bring more fame in the industry, but at a broader level, the charge of a Hindi GE is a high of a different kind, especially when the channel is doing well.
So is it the pressure build-up that has seen so many changes in the space in 2011? I don’t think we will truly know. Most of the exiting CEOs/ Heads attribute their leaving to the “need to explore something new”. One then wonders, is the power not worth the pressure anymore? Are Channel Heads and CEOs evolving in a way that their expectations from their roles are changing?
If that is true, Networks would have to rethink the manner in which they want to run their Hindi GE offering, so that they can retain to their channel heads, especially if the head is someone who will make a difference to the channel.
Now that just about every channel has seen a change in leadership this year, perhaps things would be settled for another year, perhaps slightly more, but with the way exit announcements are being made these days, you never know. For the genre’s sake however, one can hope for leadership continuity in Hindi GECs.