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HindustanTimes Fri,29 Aug 2014

Sameer Nair and the new NDTV family

Gurbir Singh   April 12, 2007
First Published: 21:54 IST(12/4/2007) | Last Updated: 22:03 IST(12/4/2007)

It's raining channels, but Sameer Nair, who has just formally announced his tie-up with Pronoy Roy and NDTV for a slew of entertainment channels, is nonchalant about the crowding.

"I have learned to live in crowded space in STAR. I am used to it. Yes, some who don't make will have to get off," he said replying to the query whether there would be attrition with the 60-odd channels in the pipeline.

"It's an evolutionary path. The entertainment business is constantly emerging with new improved versions. The important thing is to ride the wave," Nair said.

Nair, formerly CEO of STAR Entertainment, along with Pronoy Roy and Karan Johar has just announced his official induction as CEO of NDTV Imagine – a kind of entertainment portal for a group that so far has been mainly in the business of television news. On the face of it, the alliance is a heady mix. NDTV with its two decades of television experience; Karan Johar and his Dharma Productions as among the best in the Bollywood showbiz; and Nair with the experience of running the most successful broadcasting network in the country.

"This is family. And it is all about loving your family," Nair quotes K3G with élan.

For Nair, it is a transformation from executive to entrepreneur. In STAR, he had a meteoric rise from heading movie acquisitions in 1999 to COO in charge of the crucial area of programming. He superseded many and was often in the eye of controversy; but he built his alliances in STAR's Hong Kong HQ well enough to keep competitors at bay. Finally, he made it to the top slot bargaining a CEO position last year with the threat of quitting to head Anil Ambani's Reliance Entertainment.

His departure from STAR was equally dramatic this year leaving the broadcasting network midway while playing KBC's third innings – a show he set up in 2000 and re-launched twice.

Sameer Nair is not talking numbers but industry sources indicated Johar and Dharma Productions will hold around 5 per cent of the equity in the new entity NDTV Imagine, while Nair will have an initial stake of 3-4 per cent.

From what can be pieced together, NDTV is putting in the initial $106 million (Rs 450 crore) to seed the launch of the first two channels – a Hindi general entertainment channel and a Hindi movie channel. Pronoy Roy had gone shopping to the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market (AIM) for raising funds, but it is not known whether plans have worked out.

"We are working on taking investors on board," said Nair.

What would Karan Johar be doing? "NDTV Imagine would have the first right of refusal to all TV content produced by Dharma Productions," Nair replied. And satellite rights to his films? "We would have access to the films too but for that we would be in competition with the others."

Nair's channels would expectedly draw heavily from STAR for its staffing. "We have taken on Shailaja Khejriwal as programming head," confirmed Nair. The media world is obviously a small place. Ironically, Nair has an old team-mate Raj Nayak from his STAR days to work with as head of NDTV Media, the company's ad sales unit. Nayak had quit STAR as ad sales chief after Nair had upstaged his as COO.

"We understand each other's inner workings completely," said the upbeat Nair.

Before and during the production of KBC, it is know that Karan Johar, Shahrukh Khan and Sameer Nair had bonded well as a team. The chemistry that worked for STAR can be expected to drive NDTV's new venture as well.

"Yes, SRK's production company Red Chilies will be contributing to our channels," confirmed Nair. "But SRK personally cannot appear on any other channel save STAR. I had signed him on for 2 years with STAR till December 2008," he added.

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