The programming divisions at two of India's top three television networks are in a tizzy.
Rekha Nigam, who was heading programming at Sony, put in her papers late last week. A few days before that, Lakshmi Venkat cleared her desk at Zee Network's Mumbai headquarters.
Venkat, who was vice-president, in charge of programming at Zee, quit the network at a crucial juncture. Amid a lot of media hype, the erstwhile No 1 television network is working overtime to recover the ground it lost to STAR and, to some extent, Sony, with a slew of new programming initiatives under the stewardship of group broadcasting CEO Sandeep Goyal.
Venkat has joined United Television as creative director (telefilms). She took up office on October 4 and will be responsible for developing new shows and pitching them to channels, while monitoring the performance of shows on air. Apart from being responsible for "quality control and generating high TRPs for her shows", she would be in charge of "client relationships with the channels, including scheduling".
Lakshmi is the fourth creative director on board UTV's TV content division. It currently has three high profile creative directors including Zarine Mehta, Ramesh Balakrishnan and Neeraj Naik.
Venkat, who started her career as a news correspondent with Doordarshan, was heading the programming department at Zee before being reassigned in March 2000 to create a new international channel called Chakra for the Zee Network. The channel hasn't seen the light of the day yet. Was the fate of Chakra in any way linked to her decision to move on?
Venkat disagrees. In fact, she is optimistic about the project she left unfinished. "The launch of Chakra has been postponed only. It has some fantastic programmes that are ready and are being syndicated for a worldwide audience." Indeed, there are talks that Chakra might be revived next year - albeit in a different avatar - quite like Baazi Kiski which landed a dud in its earlier avatar Sawal Dus Crore Ka. For now, Venkat is looking ahead to a long stint at the Ronnie Screwvala-promoted television software production house.
Thirty-eight year old Venkat has had a long and chequered career. Before joining Zee, she was general manager, programming and business development, In-House Productions, Mumbai. Prior to that she was with the IndusInd group, initially on their cable channel project and later as channel chief of In-Mumbai. She has also had a brief stint as vice-president of Shogun Films and has done some freelance work for the now defunct Home TV.
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