Ravina Raj makes a comeback

Can Sony?s former programming head repaet her success story as a producer?

india Updated: Jan 23, 2006 00:32 IST

Ravina Raj Kohli, whether it was her successful stint at Sony Entertainment Television or the unceremonious exit from STAR News, has always made news. So it’s not surprising that media offices are buzzing with whispers about her return to Sony. Investigations by HT Style reveal that Kohli and her content company Sundial have inked an alliance with WPP’s media investment arm Group M to develop a television production house. Kohli confirmed this. “My multimedia company Sundial and my branded entertainment JV with WPP/Group M is doing work for Sony.” HT Style spoke to the Sony top brass who said Kohli would reappear at Sony “only as a producer.”

After being out in the cold for almost a year and a half, Ms Kohli could not have asked for a better comeback. That the channel in question is Sony doesn’t come as a surprise as it was here that she initiated successful programmes like Heena. Media watchers who had been speculating about her next move—after the unceremonious ouster from STAR News after the channel failed to take off — concede that it’s a good beginning.

STAR News was her second big failure after the disastrous folding up of Nine Gold, the programming joint venture between James Packer’s Nine Network and HFCL’s Vinay Maloo. It was, however, quite an expensive misadventure. The experiment to run DD Metro from outside never worked and the Packers pulled out. The media hype, however, was a first of sorts as far as programming heads were concerned. The young, successful and good-looking whiz kid took the glamour industry by storm, but found it difficult to live up to her reputation. Kohli did her own media-headline-grabbing acts too like her star-studded launch party in September 2000 or attending office at ‘The Regent’ (now Taj Land’s End) in sarongs!

After HFCL Nine Broadcasting wound up its operations, Ms Kohli simply moved on from one high-flying job to another—she took over as the President of STAR News beating several well known journalists in the race for the hot-seat. While some were confident that she’d be able to pull it off, those who she’d beaten to the post were doubtful. Raj Naik, who was then heading STAR’s marketing team quit in a huff and joined NDTV miffed at being superseded by both STAR COO Sameer Nair and Kohli.

The attempt to capture the mofussil audience by increasing the masala quotient and dubbing it Star Nyuuj initially intrigued but failed to impress the audiences for too long. However, to be fair to her, not all of it failed either. The format which was modelled on the FOX news format--- more glamorous anchors fitted in designer clothes, trained how to walk petite and put the right make-up – as well as party coverage and also city centric news (City 60) were significant innovations. The bottomline was that STAR News did not gather enough TRPs, NDTV was giving it a beating and the channel was seen as an anathema to the Hindi heartland.

“She’s incredibly talented though I think she became a postergirl of sorts during her stint at STAR—being a young woman that perhaps was misplaced,” says one of the then STAR News team member of her failure at STAR. That her successor Uday Shankar was able to turn around the channel—Star News – from a poor 4th to No.2 just behind Aaj Tak indicates that she has some explaining to do. It probably also explains the long hiatus when she was in Delhi attending parties and doing little else.

Besides her inability to increase the news channel’s viewership, STAR’s CEO Peter Mukerjea who had recruited her, came out with open criticism in March 2004 that Ms Kohli “had failed to keep the business and editorial functions of the news channel separate.” Rekha Nigam, who replaced Ms Kohli as Sony’s programming chief in 2000, said: “Sony was a channel on the upswing –channels are cyclical there are ups and downs to say that it was perhaps her biggest success would be unfair—she may go on to do something bigger.”

The new project with Sony, if it works is likely to give her a new lease. If it does not, she can blame the channel. After all she is not she is not head of programming this time!

First Published: Jan 22, 2006 02:18 IST