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Home > Business > Special

How Sameer Nair turned around Star Plus

Shuchi Bansal in New Delhi | December 04, 2006

From making advertising films to selling hot dogs, to leading the country's most popular entertainment channel, Sameer Nair has come a long way.

The 41-year-old CEO of Star Entertainment India, shot into the limelight as the programming head of Star Plus when he got Amitabh Bachchan to host Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) in 2000. Coupled with family sagas like Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki, KBC turned around the fortunes of Murdoch's Hindi entertainment channel.

Star Plus is where it is today, thanks to his creative genius, say Nair's friends and foes alike. Balaji's Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi was approved, it appears,  just on the basis of its whacky title. And now, Nair is credited with yet another masterstroke, signing on Hindi film industry's biggest star Shah Rukh Khan to host KBC.

Star's critics argue  Nair had no choice but to look for a dramatic solution to stave off competition from Zee that's been challenging Star Plus' dominance in the 9-10 pm prime time slot.

The viewership and advertising pie is expected to split further during the World Cup Cricket that commences on Sony in February 2007. "Imagine the ad-spend Star will be able to block. The show could take away Rs 150 crore (Rs 1.50 billion) from the total advertising pie of the electronic media in the next few months," says an advertising sales head of a rival channel.

Besides, SRK's popularity in overseas markets such as the UK, Canada and even Indonesia could help Star generate substantial subscription revenue. The company also has massive plans to monetise the show on the Net as well as through other interactive initiatives.

Does Nair also view it as a masterstroke? "Well, we had to think of a solution when Amitabh Bachchan declined to do KBC. We had to take the show to the next level. And Shah Rukh Khan is definitely on any list of one," says Nair.

For Nair, who joined the Star Network to do promo scheduling for Star Movies, keeping Star Plus ahead of its rivals is a passion. It's the same passion with which he reads military history books that give him ideas on strategies. It's also the same passion with which he launched his catering business in Mumbai after studying hotel management in Chennai.

"It was a chastening experience," laughs Nair adding, "It required serious money to achieve scale. I folded up in five months." After a brief stint at UDI Yellow pages, Nair landed up at Star and the rest is history.

Few of Nair's colleagues, current and former, admire his managerial qualities. He's not a people's person and he's ruthless. "Let people say what they wish to. I think I have a very good team and I keep it very happy", says Nair. His biggest dream is to make a feature film one day. Will he do it? "They don't let you in heaven unless you make a film. Do I have a choice?"

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Sub: ..Star Plus

Needing Shah Rukh Khan to host this game show would be like having Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise host the US version, but in the ...

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