Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cheers, Peter!

It’s Peter Mukerjea’s last day with STAR TV. And as the Gods and the Election Commissioner have decided, it’s a dry day in Mumbai.
And one thinks back on Peter’s contribution to STAR India – and to STAR TV.
He built a brand for Rupert Murdoch. Many, in fact.
Arguably, he established India’s first special interest channel – STAR Plus. If that confuses you, remember, in the early 90s, it was the first all-English channel, delivered by satellite, dependant on international programming – and premium priced.
He hired brilliantly – track all those who worked under him and figure out where they are now. I won’t include their names and take away from Peter’s deserved moment in the spotlight.
He’s a great salesman. Bold and Beautiful @ $1600 a spot. BPL Oye @ $900 a spot. And these figures are ten years old.
He was the consummate CEO even when he wasn’t one. High risk appetite, more than willing to take responsibility for failure, backing his team to the hilt during tough times.
He’s a great friend. Ask all those who’ve had a drink or twelve with him.
And today’s his last day at STAR.
And today’s a dry day.
But man will contrive, especially those who love a tipple. So, wherever you are this evening, cheers, Peter!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Why India will rule football

I’ve written about this before.
And Shilpa Shetty wins the Big Brother 100,000 pound jackpot and I’m reminded of it again.
To me, this was a no-brainer. Jade Goody or Jackson against an Indian? Notice, I didn’t say against Shilpa Shetty, I said Indian.
And we’re not racist.
But we are mobile phone junkies, and we are suckers for any SMS vote-in announced by any two-bit channel for any two-bit show.
And, Indians are a formidable percentage of the population of virtually any country in the world, except China.
And while we’re not racist, we love our own. And when one of the candidates is a fellow Indian, we vote like crazy. As Indians have done for Shilpa Shetty.
And, not so far in the future, an Indian will be in the squad (and will start once in a while, and play a few minutes in a few games) of Manchester United and Liverpool and Arsenal and Chelsea.
Because these clubs will not be able to ignore a simple truth: Indians will buy season tickets, and SMS packages and T-Shirts and other merchandise because an Indian is playing for the team.
Not because we’re racist; only because we love our own.

And, one day in the next couple of seasons, when one of the top four football teams in the English Premier League announces an Indian in the team, I will say, “I told you so.”

Why politicians should not create advertising

This is the body copy from Raj Thackeray's election ad.

One day, before I die, I will understand what he is trying to say.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The future of STAR Plus: Remember BPO and DNA

When Dhirubhai Ambani decided to enter the media firmament with a financial paper dubbed The Business and Political Observer, the announcement was like a tsunami hitting the shores of The Economic Times. Journalist after journalist left ET for the then proposed paper – a paper that forced The Economic Times to go pink in a pre-emptive move. ET was in trouble, said the doomsday prophets.
To cut a long story short, and because this is a blog and not a Sunday paper, the rest is history. BPO sank without a trace. The paper was a poor cousin of ET, and was treated as such by those who mattered – readers and advertisers.
Years later, The Times of India was in a similar position, with the announcement of a new English daily backed by the Dainik Bhaskar – Zee TV combine. More importantly, the new paper, christened Daily News and Analysis (DNA), was able to attract talent from The Times of India from significantly higher echelons than BPO was able to do – it snared Pradeep Guha, Ayaz Memon, Malavika Sanghvi, Sathya Saran – names to reckon with in the media world.

The Times is in trouble, said the doomsday prophets.

And in the year and a half gone by since the launch of DNA, The Times of India group launched Mumbai Mirror, and Hindustan Times launched its Mumbai edition. The Times of India has improved the offering significantly, and the revenues of the Mumbai edition, from what one understands, have grown rather than shrunk in the 18 or so months since the DNA launch.
If one looks back, and, therefore, with 20:20 hindsight, it isn’t tough to figure out why:

The Times of India wasn’t as bad a paper as the doomsday prophets made it out to be
The new paper was not as different (nor, in the opinion of readers and advertisers, better) as the doomsday prophets believed it would be
The fact that media consunption is a HABIT was ignored by the doomsday prophets
The fact that the owners and senior management at the Times of India had the will and the wherewithal to fight back was ignored or underestimated
The strength and muscle that a leader enjoys– in this instance, specifically, the clout in distribution and the clout with large advertisers – was also ignored and underestimated

And today, one hears of a STAR Plus that is under threat because of the departure of Sameer Nair, and a STAR TV that is under threat because of the departure of Peter Mukerjea.

STAR Plus IS a leader, and the very products that Sameer Nair commissioned will remain with STAR Plus. They will not travel with him
STAR Plus is the leader because of the width of offering, not because of a single K serial or because of the success of earlier editions of KBC (and, as things stand today, the encouraging performance of the SRK KBC).
A management crisis in STAR is something the viewer has no knowledge of, and no interest in. He/ she is only concerned with the content that is available on the idiot box
STAR Plus WILL fight back – and will use all the resources that they have in their arsenal – including the depth of the pockets, their distribution clout, their ability to collect from advertisers and their considerable brand – to maintain leadership status
Paul Aiello has some breathing time. KBC has completed just one week, and Koffee with Karan and Antakshari wait in the wings.

At the same time, one can also expect the following:
Zee TV under Pradeep Guha will attempt to strike hard at STAR’s most vulnerable moment.
Peter Mukerjea and Sameer Nair will carry some executives with them
If, as the rumour mills suggest, Nair does take up a significant role in NDTV’s entertainment channel, the channel will cause a dent in the ENTIRE General Entertainment Channel market, not just in STAR Plus’ share. Zee will also have to contend with Sameer Nair!
Similarly, Mukerjea's new foray (not the one as a headhunter!) will impact all in the TV business, not just STAR
But Zee, Nair and Mukerjea will surely remember what the doomsday prophets do not: that the ultimate battle is one of content appeal and quality, not one of temporary top management vacuums.

Because STAR Plus is the channel, not Sameer Nair. And STAR TV is the organization, not Peter Mukerjea.

And, as the ratings suggest week after week, STAR Plus is not a bad channel at all. And so the viewers and the people meters say.
Read Ramya Ramamurthy’s doomsday prophecy on here: Is this the end for STAR TV?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

IMPORTANT: Information for Media and advertising professionals

Considering that so much of our work is conducted in bars, pubs and restaurants with licenses, and considering how important it is for us to attend parties where much drinking is done (or host parties where much drinking is done), I thought I MUST share this with all of you.
The following days are DRY DAYS in Mumbai (for those in Singapore and Hong Kong who read this blog, it means all hooch shops and hooch outlets are shut).
Friday, 26th January
Tuesday, 31st January
Wednesday, 1st February
Thursday, 2nd February
Friday, 3rd February
I cannot confirm this, but informed sources tell me Dr. Vijay Mallya is upset.
Please stock up, and help Dr Mallya feel better.

Shilpa Shetty, Neo, Water, STAR, AXN: what a line up

It’s been a funny ten days or so. Consider:

The Shilpa Shetty – Jade Goody racism row
The Neo sports commercial racism row
The nomination of Water to the Oscars
The ban on AXN
The Neo-Sports – Prasar Bharti spat
India’s two victories against the West Indies
The launch of the SRK – KBC
The resignations of Peter Mukerjea and Sameer Nair from STAR TV

Some line up, that.

First, Shilpa Shetty. The media (including the English Media) goes hammer and tongs at Jade Goody’s alleged “racism”. The Indian Embassy senses an opportunity and releases ads in leading UK papers inviting Goody to India, so that she might, through her experience, become a more understanding, accepting and tolerant human being. Goody is voted out of the show….
…. And applies for a visa to India.

Does the Indian Embassy issue a visa? After their more than public invitation, it will be egg in our collective faces if India does not extend a visa.

That’s when it gets interesting, and I’ll cut to Water. The shame of it – that Deepa Mehta had to shoot in Sri Lanka because Hindu fundamentalists in India destroyed her set and prevented her from shooting. And that we haven’t seen the film yet, while the rest of the world has.

And the Government of India will have to ensure that Jade Goody is safe, that she is not attacked and abused and, indeed, subjected to racist remarks during her proposed stay here. And that, I believe, is impossible to ensure.

And that’s why I’ll cut again, this time to Neo Sports’ commercial. Which, to me, is racist. Which, to many, is not racist. But when I saw the TVC for the first time, I did not jump out of my chair and yell “Racism”. Because we see racism in our midst all the time. We have pejorative appellations for Caucasians, for Blacks, for Tamilians, for Bengalees, for Sikhs, for every caste, creed and colour under the sun.

And we, as a nation, are upset with Jade Goody? Lovely.

Which brings me to AXN, which quickly apologized to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for their transgressing the policies set out in the proposed Broadcast Bill. Which I did not feel they had transgressed. But who wants to get into conflict with the I&B Ministry?

Neo Sports does. And they’re right in their stand. This is a business deal they’ve entered into, not a charity. And I’ll postulate an absurdity: What happens if the Ministry decides that it is of national interest for the terrestrial subscribers to watch KBC? And DD has to show it, and DD will not encrypt it, and DD will make the feed available to Tata Sky and Dish?

And for Neo, It’s worse because the Indian cricket team, though not playing well, is winning against the West Indies.

As SRK KBC is winning against anything else on TV, if the initial numbers are anything to go by.

Which brings me to Peter Mukerjea and Sameer Nair. Peter, who built the organization that is STAR India, and Sameer, whose instinctive touch made STAR Plus a winner.

And one wonders:
When will we stop being racist?
When will we have laws that regulate broadcasting instead of knee jerk, politically motivated decisionss?
When will we see Water in India?
Will the Jade Goody trip to India be a PR disaster for India?
Who will fill Peter Mukerjea’s shoes? Who will fill Sameer Nair’s?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The battle for the pink papers

All eyes and ears have been concentrating on KBC with SRK and on the departures of Peter Mukerjea and Sameer Nair from STAR TV.
Zillions of questions.
Will KBC do well? How will Paul Aiello manage the India mess? Will Zee take advantage and recoup the long lost No 1 slot?
Zillions of answers, too, in all media: print, the Internet, the blogosphere, TV.

And we’ve lost track of the mother of all battles coming up: the pink paper wars. With the launch of the Hindustan Times-backed India edition of the Wall Street Journal imminent, The Economic Times has, as The Times of India did immediately before the launches of Hindustan Times, Mumbai and DNA, quietly embarked on an overhaul of the paper.

More pages, more sections, the layout being nudged up a notch or two: it’s all happening.

And in some ways, it’s a battle that will not be about the money; it’s a battle for control of influence. While The Times of India’s turf had to be protected because it is the cash cow of BCCL, ET’s needs to be protected because of how much it influences the influential.

In true Hindustan Times style, the launch date is a riddle in an enigma in a mystery, but it surely is around the corner.

And what, you ask, of Business Standard, Hindu BusinessLine and Financial Express?

They need to get their acts together, too. Be there. Or be left out. Of media plans and of spheres of influence.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

STAR right, media not so bright

Just when one thought STAR TV could do nothing right, they pull off a winner. The timing of the announcement of the resignations of Peter Mukerjea and Sameer Nair caught every journo on the wrong foot, and served STAR’s objective perfectly.
Led by the rumour mill, the media complacently waited for an announcement to be made on Wednesday, when Paul Aiello, CEO designate STAR TV and acting CEO, STAR India was expected (by the same, efficient rumour mill) to come back to Mumbai (in fact, he's probably at STAR House, Mumbai, as you read this).
The press announcement is made late evening on Sunday, when no senior journalist is in office, and clearances for an article by a junior hack are tough to get.
Most newspapers (of those who were, indeed, able to carry it at all) carried vanilla pieces of one of the most significant developments in Indian media in the last few years. If the announcement had been made at a civilized time, say, 5 o’clock on a Monday, all the pieces would have carried a few quotes from STAR top brass and reactions from industry peers.
More importantly, given that Mukerjea and Nair had decided to leave, the announcement forced media to focus on the first episode of the SRK starring KBC rather than on shenanigans in the boardroom – and surely SRK KBC is distraction enough to divert attention.
Perhaps the first analytical piece of the impact of the resignations on STAR, on the television firmament, on Indian media, will be seen in a magazine and not a newspaper – written by Vanita Kohli-Khandekar in the next issue of BusinessWorld? I’m going to wait for that one.
And, perhaps, you might see something of an analysis here, as well. By the weekend.

Monday, January 22, 2007

KBC or Peter or Sameer?

Loved the delicious irony of this one.

Sunday night: STAR announces the resignations of Peter Mukerjea and Sameer Nair, putting an end to a year of speculation and rumours.

Monday morning: national campaign for Kaun Bangea Crorepati's first episode.

The headline?

"Intezar Khatam Hua", which, to those who don't know Hindi, translates to "The wait is over."

Moments like this make life infinitely more enjoyable.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Through the looking glass

STAR TV confirms that Peter Mukerjea and Sameer Nair have quit. Paul Aiello will take charge as acting Chief Executive Officer of STAR India, adds the short press release.
I received the news as I was immersed in memories of Through the Looking Glass. One thing led to another, and it’s time for a Foster’s, so I hand over to Lewis Carroll.

“Why do you sit out here all alone?” said Alice, not wishing to begin an argument.
“Why, because there's nobody with me!” cried Humpty Dumpty. “Did you think I didn't know the answer to that? Ask another.”
“Don't you think you'd be safer down on the ground?” Alice went on, not with any idea of making another riddle, but simply in her good-natured anxiety for the queer creature. “That wall is so very narrow!”
“What tremendously easy riddles you ask!” Humpty Dumpty growled out. “Of course I don't think so! Why, if ever I did fall off -- which there's no chance of -- but if I did –” Here he pursed up his lips, and looked so solemn and grand that Alice could hardly help laughing. “If I did fall,” he went on, “the King has promised me -- ah, you may turn pale, if you like! You didn't think I was going to say that, did you? The King has promised me -- with his very own mouth -- to -- to –”
“To send all his horses and all his men,”Alice interrupted, rather unwisely.

And I had another sip of the beer, and I wondered, where are the horses and the men?

Of a matter infinitely more important than STAR TV

This post has nothing to do with media, and has nothing to do with advertising.
Heck, maybe it does.
Since everyone in advertising and media drinks like a fish, and since I’m a conformist, I drink like a fish, too.
And since everyone in advertising and media snacks on snacks when drinking like a fish, I snack on snacks, too.
The other night, drinking with some friends and discussing weighty matters such as the possibility of Peter Mukerjea’s acceptance of honorary chairmanship of the BJP or the Congress (I) in the event he quit STAR TV, we snacked on Masala Papads.
And Peter’s future occupied my mind every waking moment since then. Till this morning.
When I read The Asian Age.
All concerns about Peter’s future and Sameer Nair’s future were expelled from my brain, because every cell inside my skull was worrying about the million papads I’ve had with the zillions of litres of Foster’s.
All these millions of papads I’ve consumed: did they conform to the International Standards that “The Codex Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants, controlled jointly by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO)” had defined?
According to the stringent measures, as culled out by the admirable Syed Akbar of the aforenamed newspaper, the papads should be of “pleasant taste and smell… free from rancid or bitter taste and should not crumble.”
They should also be “free from frayed edges, holes, dirt and fungus growth. On being fried, they should be crispy (sic) and should not be soggy or sticky”.
Most importantly, they ought to be “in the form of circular discs having a diameter ranging from 5 cm to 25 cm. The thickness should be 0.3 mm to 1.2 mm.”
I read this, and immediately reached for my wallet and my Sorbitrate.
I could swear the papads I last consumed (on the night we were concerned about Peter Mukerjea) were not quite circular and were smaller in diameter than 5 cm, and thicker than the 1.2 mm specified. And boy, did they crumble!
And it’s probably true of the millions of papads I’ve consumed during my 30 years as a professional in the advertising and media business.
And all these papads fail the Codex-FAO-WHO tests.
And you want me to worry about Peter Mukerjea?
I’m off to Hinduja Hospital to have a check up on the damage the papads have wrought. And if it’s not too bad, I’ll buy myself a set of Vernier Calipers or a screw gauge or whatever. When the next papad lands on my table next to my next Foster’s, I’ll play it safe.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Rupert Murdoch to start Bagel shop

Why is that so impossible to believe? The Economic Times authoritatively states that Peter Mukerjea HAS quit STAR and WILL join INX Global, a recruitment firm run by his wife, Indrani, as Chairman.

So why can’t Murdoch launch a bagel shop when he’s tired of the media business?

The long and the short of what prompted Sonali Krishna to collate 400 cc of rumour and history is one simple truth: there’s not a kilobyte of information coming out of STAR TV – India or Hong Kong. And each newspaper is outdoing the other in the rumours stakes, and embellishments such as Mukerjea’s future occupation are the differentiators.

Jeez, this is THE ECONOMIC TIMES, and you can’t report that “revenues fell over the last two years, by as much as 35-42%”.

35 to 42 per cent? Which is it closer to, Sonali? 35? Or 42? The difference IS in millions of dollars.

There’s only one way reports like this will come to an end: when STAR makes an official announcement.

Which, according to Sonali’s informed and unnamed sources, will happen on Wednesday.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Who’s quitting STAR? YOU decide!

Steve Askew once spoke about “uneducated rumours” on the unhappiness at the top at STAR TV India. So I thought I would attempt “training” and “mining” these rumours, and create an overall rumour that is significantly more educated.
How do you see this puzzle unraveling? Please vote. And please forward to friends in your address book who could fine tune the rumour.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


While the media and media watchers get their knickers in a twist on the situation at STAR India and link it to the performance and non-performance of KBC with Shah Rukh Khan, one wonders: which viewer cares about Peter Mukerjea and Sameer Nair and Paul Aiello? Which viewer has even heard about these worthies?

The viewer cares only about what he/ she sees on the telly: that’s KBC.
And how will it fare? Let’s have collective wisdom. Please cast your vote.

And a disclaimer: the FREE poll is in beta, and will not allow a second vote from the same IP address. And if you have a poor connection, you loser, you will be left staring at a thingy that goes round and round.

Pigsandwings will revisit the results when 4 weeks of KBC are up. Cheers. And thanks for rocking the vote.

Moral Police Ministry arrests AXN

That’s all we needed. Whims and fancies of a Minister for Information and Broadcasting are enough for a channel to be banned for two months.
AXN airs the “World’s Sexist Advertisements” post 11 PM, and the MIB believes the show was affecting “public morality”.
This, despite the fact that the proposed Broadcast Bill explicitly (pun unintended) allows adult content to be aired after 11 PM.
And, as Governments in India do, they go after soft targets that get them the headlines. There is no effort to stop the sale of pornographic (and, one must add, pirated) DVDs which are available on the streets of every metro in India and accessible to anyone, major or minor, with Rs. 50 to spare. But going after vendors on the streets could mean a loss of votes, while going after AXN would not.
The possible repercussions of this decision are too horrific to consider. I haven’t seen the program that caused AXN to be banned, but, from what one gathers from reports on the content, there are any number of programs on any number of other channels which could easily result in their being banned when measured by the same yardstick.
On the surface, AXN does not seem to have crossed any of the limits set by the proposed Broadcast Bill. However, that is not how the Ministry for Information and Broadcasting has interpreted the show.
Where does that leave programming heads and scheduling heads? At the mercy of a self-righteous individual who could cause a channel to be banned, to cause revenues to be in suspended animation, to cause jobs to be lost?
In this age of colour TV, we need a Black and White policy in place. Where there is no grey on when the MIB can, and cannot, ban a channel.
And something like an AXN ban cannot happen again.

...and the law is not an ass

Prathibha Naitthani, the Lecturer from St. Xavier’s College who (successfully) filed a Public Interest Litigation asking the courts to step in and stop adult movies being telecast on Star Movies, HBO and Zee Studio, filed another one asking for censorship of programs including Baywatch, Sex and the City and Bikini Island.
The Bombay High Court, while disposing the petition held (as reported in the Indian Express) “that although the Act prescribes all telecast programs be subject to censorship, the government had more important things to worry about than waste time on this…”
That’s the good part.
The bad part? The Court has directed the Central Board for Film Certification to evolve a mechanism for checking content, the same IE report adds.
So a board with an average age of 50 plus will decide what a country with an average age that is hurtling south should watch.
Not cool, no.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Now, Radio gets heard

With over 300 FM stations expected to be operational in India by the end of this year, Jonathan Hallett of Partners in Media Asia thought the industry deserved a voice of its own. India Radio Bulletin will be launched in early February, in pdf and online versions, and in early March in a print version. Read more about it in exchange4media .

STAR TV 1, Bloggers 0

STAR TV is in turmoil, with Michelle Guthrie having quit, and Steve Askew, Peter Mukerjea and Sameer Nair rumoured to have quit.
With the only official comment confirming Guthrie’s exit and Paul Aiello’s replacing her as CEO of STAR TV, but not mentioning the others mentioned above, the situation was tailormade for a victory for the blogosphere over MSM.
And I’ve been tracking the blogosphere from the moment noises on Guthrie’s exit got louder, and the subsequent discovery amazes me.
The number of blogs writing on the mess at STAR?
ONE. This one.
What makes STAR so special? Ever since Pradyuman Maheshwari launched Mediaah! (subsequently shut down), Indian bloggers have been tracking and writing about all kinds of developments in Indian media houses, whether at Times of India or NDTV or CNN IBN. Rumours. Gossip. Vitriol. Comment. Spite. Fact. Fiction. If you want dope on Rajdeep Sardesai or Barkha Dutt or Arnab Goswami, it’s all there in the blogworld.
But STAR or Peter Mukerjea or Sameer Nair? Zip.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The continuity at STAR TV

While the media (and Rupert Murdoch and Paul Aiello) go into a tizzy trying to anticipate the changes at STAR India and STAR Hong Kong, for one man sitting in Mumbai, it’s déjà vu.
He joined STAR when it was run by the original owner, Hutchison Whampoa. He started his STAR stint under Siddharth Ray, as virtually a one-man ad sales team. He’s seen Peter Mukerjea come into the picture after Murdoch bought out Li Ka Shing. He’s worked in a STAR India with Andrew Carnegie, Gene Swinstead and Rathikant Basu. He’s seen them all come and go.
He’s been around when Richard Li, Michael Dunlop, James Murdoch were there, when Gareth Chang was there, when Gary Davey was there, when Michelle Guthrie was there. He’s still around as Paul Aiello takes over.
And, as question marks hang over the futures of Peter Mukerjea and Sameer Nair in STAR, he’s still around, quietly occupying a corner room in STAR India’s Mumbai office, doing whatever is demanded of him – managing relationships with the press, with other corporates, and critical stakeholders.
And the dust at STAR will settle sometime this week, and he’ll still be around.
Yashpal Khanna, who has done more time at STAR than any other human being on earth (as far as I know). Almost 15 years.
Chew on that one.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Karan Thapar loses temper -- and viewers?

Was just watching Karan Thapar grill Sitaram Yechury on Devil’s Advocate on CNN IBN. Neither wants to hear what the other is saying, and the viewer is no wiser on the land acquisition issues of West Bengal after the program than before it.
And Thapar announces a break, saying “we’ll be back when tempers have cooled on both sides,” or words to such effect.
Anchors losing their tempers on news television programs? That’s a new one.
I’ve been watching the program regularly. One observation. Thapar’s growing in popularity. And rudeness.
And if the rudeness continues, I wonder if he will continue to get guests for the program. It’s getting to a stage where the interviewee can never be right, only Thapar’s preconceived positions can.
That’s not just bad television, its irresponsible television. I watch programs such as Devil's Advocate to be better informed on an issue, not to be led to a point that the anchor has decided to take me to. Am I alone? I doubt it.

If you ask me, Yechury won this one hands down.

STAR TV Trivial Pursuit

While rumours will continue to fly about the status of Sameer Nair and Peter Mukerjea in STAR India, there will be no “news” till Paul Aiello, named CEO of STAR TV after Michelle Guthrie quit, comes to Mumbai on Tuesday on a firefighting mission. Don’t expect any official announcements till late Wednesday or early Thursday.
Till then, I thought I’d keep you occupied with some quotable quotes. Here goes.

The first published story on the mess at STAR India that I could find is dated 7 Jan 2003, when said in a 2002 recap story “...Even programming head Sameer Nair's elevation to the chief operating officer's post was seen by some in the media as a move to ease out chief executive Peter Mukerjea …”

The greatest STAR quote of all time can be attributed to Steve Askew, Star TV's Chief Operating Officer, currently on leave, when he said, in March 2006, that “the recent restructuring in India operations does not represent turmoil at the top management.”
“Peter Mukerjea was named the Chief Executive Officer, of STAR Group, India and Sameer Nair as Chief Executive Officer, of STAR Entertainment India, he pointed out, rejecting ''uneducated rumours'' of top-level turmoil.”

Business Today, quoted Peter Mukerjea saying this in September 2002 "Sameer's a great ally, and his biggest strength is his ability to combine people skills with a conscientious approach to work."

In an interview with Subhash Jha, soon after being named CEO, Sameer Nair had this to say:

Q: It is believed that STAR decided to streamline Peter Mukerjea and your areas of activity since the two of you were always at loggerheads.
A: I don't think it's entirely true. There's so much to be done. In order to be efficient and productive we needed to be more focused. When in a company of our size everyone does everything then no one really does anything. (sic)

There must be more gems floating around. If you come across any, please feel free to send it through the comments option.

Saturday, January 13, 2007 worth a watch

Sunil Nair walks into EMDI, an institute I’m involved with, to teach students of the Public Relations batch.
He’s been there and done that – and now he, along with some like minded professionals, has launched, a 24 hour online TV channel which he tells me about. I log on, and decide to tell you about it.
The business model? They run commercials on the content -- which they own.

What’s in a word? Lots!

Britannia and Danone slug it out over the rights to the word “Tiger”. And it could have been a protracted legal mess if it were not sorted out amicably. My take, published in Tehelka. Read it here, if you’re of a mind to.

Friday, January 12, 2007

And the silence at STAR TV gets deafening

Another day of speculation and rumour. Finally, whispers are heard that STAR will issue a press statement on changes in top management.
And the whispers get louder, and STAR issues a release that confirms that Michelle Guthrie has indeed resigned, and that Paul Aiello would succeed her.
And what of Peter Mukerjea and Sameer Nair?
Nary a word.

Thought I’d use Merriam Webster to say what I read of the situation in Star TV India. That’s why the pic.


More on STAR’s current imbroglio: here and here

After STAR, who?

While the rumour mills focused on Peter Mukerjea and his future with STAR TV, VAS revenues of telcos went up last night with text messages suggesting Sameer Nair and Michelle Guthrie had quit STAR flying across the length and breadth of the media-marketing-advertising universe.
No official word from STAR, though.
This morning Mid-Day and Business Standard carried news (rumours, actually) items on Nair’s exit. Mid-Day outdid BS, mentioning the exits of Michelle Guthrie and Peter Mukerjea as well, and the naming of the new CEO for India was the cherry on the top.
Still no official word from STAR.
Sometime today, STAR will have to make a statement, and we will know once and for all what the dickens is happening there. Is Nair leaving? Is he joining NDTV? Is Mukerjea staying? Will he have a boss in India? What’s happening in Hong Kong with Guthrie?
All the answers, later today.
But this blog is not a gossip blog, and you could read all about the new dispensation once STAR condescends to separate fact from fiction, which, as I said, ought to happen sometime today.
This blog is about disasters waiting to happen, not at STAR TV, but at every single buzzing media entity in the country.
Because the STAR imbroglio is not about palace intrigues and politics, but about the talent in the organization. With the talent comes the problem of managing the talent, managing the ambitions, aspirations and egos of key players.
Keep one happy, and make another unhappy – unless the talent includes very competent and senior human resource managers.
Which most media entities do not have.
This time around, the mess it at STAR TV.
Who’s next?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

STAR TV’s silence makes noise

To the best of my knowledge, no journalist in the MSM or in the blogosphere raised the issue on STAR TV’s silence on Peter Mukerjea till I blogged about it yesterday.
This morning, I visit exchange4media and find a startlingly similar story on the same issue.
Is it coincidence? Or, should I be flattered?

iBlog, iTag, iWin

The visual is a printscreen from the home page, and is an updated list of top tags for yesterday.
It was tagged at home too, with my daughter (who was Nokia loyal till the pink MotoRazr hit the market) expressing disappointment about the fact that the iPhone will take a year to hit India. She, who owns an iPod that has a non-functional battery.

And there's doubt on whether the iPhone will sell?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Importance of being Peter Mukerjea

“Silence is often misinterpreted but never misquoted”, says the weekly dose of wisdom on the walls of a church in Bandra.
STAR’s silence on Peter Mukerjea’s status is misinterpreted by all and sundry, and the silence foxes me.
It’s been over a year since rumours surfaced on Peter’s joining a rival network. Some of the rumours made their way to the press, most often met by a stony silence from STAR, from Peter, and from the network Peter was rumoured to be in discussions with.
And, every now and then, as the decibel levels of the rumours increased, Peter would talk to the press and insist he was staying with STAR.
Three months later, the rumour mills would grind again, greeted with the same initial stony silence, and, a couple of months later, by a Peter Mukerjea “I’m still here” kind of statement.
It cannot be easy for those at the top at STAR India to wonder if Peter is there to stay or moving on to greener or other pastures. It cannot be easy for STAR’s corporate communication department to handle the press with the Peter question being raised every couple of days.
I cannot remember another instance where the fate of a CEO is discussed and debated in the public domain with little or no clarity being offered by the company in question.
And what intrigues me more: don’t NewsCorp's shareholders want that clarity considering STAR is one of their projected future cash cows?

Where’s the sub, bub?

This, from today’s Indian Express (I told you, I read all the papers).

“Sania Mirza sustained her sparkling form to move into the singles quarter finals with a facile straight-set win over Romina Oprandi of Italy….”

“… Sania, ranked 66th in the world, downed Oprandi 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-0….”

So, according to PTI and announced by the venerable Indian Express, Sania won the match in straight sets by two sets to one.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Superbrands at super discounts

Loved this one.
Superbrands: An insight into 101 of India’s strongest brands, is reportedly selling at a discounted price of Rs. 295 as opposed to the cover price of Rs. 2500, according to this morning’s Mid-Day.
Wonder what the brands featured in this book will make of the price cut.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Where's the TV money going?

Frenetic spin and counter spin in the TV ad sales environs. KBC will flop without AB. Star Plus is sliding downhill. Cricket is dying, so buy KBC. Star Plus is dying, so buy Zee and Sony.
Will Star Plus dry up? Will KBC see less revenue than Star anticipates? Will spots on the ICC World Cup be hard to sell?
My take on the scenario, published in Hindustan Times, Mumbai edition, here.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

And the Time Waster of the Year Award goes to…

Take your pick. Any of the media houses that have announced Indian of the Year Awards.
And that’s a shame.
Because there’s so much that they could have done, being powerful media entities.
To prove my point, I’ll do a poll that asks readers on this site who the Indian of the Year as decided by three major media houses one month from now, and results WILL prove little or no recall.
Yet, most respondents will remember the Time Person of the Year.
Because of the attention to detail, because of the importance they attach to the award, because the process is transparent.
Living in India as we do, it should be easy to figure out how to make people respect and believe in elections.

1.You need an impartial arbiter
2.You need a transparent process
3.The public needs to know when the elections are being held
4.The public needs to know who the candidates are
5.The public needs to know who is eligible to vote
6.The public needs to “see” the elections being held
7.The public needs to be informed who won

All the Indian of the Year awards fail on one or more of these fundamentals. Because the owners of the award, brashly, decide that the rules that they think of are the rules that matter.

And they institute awards that no one remembers.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Of December, of drinking, of dildos and of dining tables

It’s been a while since I blogged, and since I reject all my own excuses, I won’t bore you with them.
But tis December, the month of the season to be jolly, and I’ve done my fair share of drinking.
But not driving.
Which brings be to dildos. An anonymous post calls me a dildo in reaction to my earlier post on Alistair Pereira.
And, dear anonymous reader, I wouldn’t have minded being called the real thing, but a dildo is a substitute. Which I am not. Of anything.
And this December, I substituted my residence. The earlier one was semi-furnished, and had a dining table. At which I did all kinds of useless things, including blogging.
And the new flat is also semi-furnished, but it does not have a dining table. So I have struggled to do all the useless things that I did at the dining table that I did not own.
Will have a dining table soon. However, the blogging resumes, as I have now acquired the art of using my laptop on a bed-top.
And while serious posting starts on the morrow, here’s wishing all of you a great new year, with health, wealth and happiness in ratios and in the order that each of you needs or prefers.
And, that includes you, the anonymous name-caller.
Dildo. That hurt.