Alokananda Chakraborty

Ravina Raj Kohli to join STAR News on April 15; Sameer Nair becomes COO, STAR India

Ravina Raj Kohli’s appointment was confirmed by STAR along with the elevation of Sameer Nair, executive VP, head of content & communication, to the coveted post of chief operating officer

It's official now.

STAR India announced on Thursday, April 11, that Ravina Raj Kohli would be joining the STAR News channel as president. While the announcement puts to rest all speculation about the fate of STAR News after its current contract with Prannoy Roy's New Delhi Television for news programming expires on March 31, 2003, in a way it also vindicates our story Will Ravina Raj Kohli be STAR's answer to Prannoy Roy, which appeared on agencyfaqs! on April 2. With this appointment, Kohli is ideally positioned to take over from Roy in April 2003.

Kohli, an ex-Sony (senior vice-president, programming and marketing), ex-HFCL-Nine Broadcasting (CEO) hand, is slated to assume office on April 15, and will report directly to STAR India CEO Peter Mukerjea. Announcing the appointment, a STAR release quoted Mukerjea as saying, "Ravina's experience in the creative business of television will bring to the news category in India a fresh boost and new energy. I am confident that with her leadership, STAR News will achieve new heights as the pace-setter in news broadcasting."

Among the challenges that Kohli is likely face is how to get STAR News' ratings up. Unfortunately, despite STAR's high standard of programming, point out media planners, Aaj Tak wins hands down in the ratings game. To give an indication, according to the latest TAM data available, for the week ending March 16, in terms of cumulative channel shares, STAR News was No 3 with 1.4 crore, Zee was No 2 with a viewership of 1.5 crore and Aaj Tak led the pack with 2 crore. The lackluster performance of the channel, say sources, was one reason why the STAR India management decided against extending the current agreement with NDTV beyond 2003. This again, may be the reason, why a person like Kohli - with a background in both programming and marketing - is being identified to head STAR News.

The appointment of Kohli now will give her enough time to ensure a smooth changeover. And the change in STAR News is expected to be absolutely radical. As things stand now, STAR plans to have just one news channel (as opposed to one Hindi and one English channel, as reported earlier in the media). The news content would be in the proportion of 40 per cent Hindi and 60 per cent English. Some reports also indicate that the new STAR News channel will be modeled on the lines of the hugely successful Fox News operation in the United States. In short, it would be a channel very different from the STAR News we see today, with a completely new look, new ID and logo.

Alongside, in an internal memo circulated on April 10 at the STAR India office in Mumbai, Mukerjea announced that Sameer Nair, executive vice-president, head of content & communication, STAR India, has been elevated to the position of chief operating officer of STAR India. Nair, widely regarded as the creative brain behind the rise of STAR Plus to its preeminent position in the channel stakes, joined STAR in 1994 as head of STAR Movies. In 1999, Nair took charge of STAR Plus as programming head and soon became the executive vice-president, programming, for the whole network.

One immediate effect of Nair's promotion on the STAR India pecking order is that Tarun Katial, vice-president, programming STAR Plus, STAR Movies and STAR World, will be devoting all his energies now to STAR Plus. Some more portfolio changes are expected soon. So, watch this space for more such announcements. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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