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Peter Mukerjea on his decision to quit STAR

February 06, 2007 13:19 IST

Is Peter Mukerjea quitting STAR TV at a particularly vulnerable time for the network? To know the why and what of his decision to leave, read on..

Excerpts from an interview given to CNBC-TV18

When you took over in 1999 as the CEO of the STAR TV network, a year after that fortunes turned for this network - KBC was launched and there were the K-soaps. That's when STAR became by far the leader in the broadcast business. So, where do you think the network is today?

It's still No.1 and let's not take away from the fact that in the Hindi entertainment area, if STAR is 33 out of 50 shows and even though, it has dropped back from 40-something - we knew that, that 40-something was not going to be sustainable for ever and ever.

And the fact, that it lasted this long is really a testament to the strength of the brand, strength of the programming and the people who work at STAR. The way I see it - I leave it in a very paramount position and in extremely capable hands from a managing point of view.

But quite a few people may say that this is possibly a vulnerable time for STAR in a long time. Zee is challenging STAR across channels and across the network. We believe revenues are down for STAR Plus, which is the main channel.

We don't see it like that, to be honest with you. My response to that is that, STAR or any television station today in India or anywhere else in the world, has in its DNA, a level of vulnerability that exists every half an hour.

There is nothing that is guaranteed in the world of television and loyalty is pretty fickle. In our DNA, half our programmes are what we live and die with.

Then I think every half an hour that goes by, or every day that goes by, our programming business executives look very closely and say 'is our rating dropping from 2.5 to 2.3, and why is that happening'? And I think, these are things that you can not discount. I don't see that we are any more vulnerable today than we were five years ago - when we first started out in the Hindi space.

What do you think is the challenge in front of the new management, especially when people associate the success of STAR TV with you and Samir Nair?

It's a complete coincidence that Samir and I decided to leave more or else at the same time. I had not spoken about my decision to leave and neither had he spoken to me about his decision to leave. It just so happens, that's the way things turned out. Now I believe that the management, which is going to run the business from now on, will need to take stock of people's concerns first and foremost.

There is a lot of speculation that a lot of senior people are headed out too.

I can't comment on speculation.

STAR India is seen as a jewel in STAR Asia's crown. Why did you choose to leave at this point?

It's funny because no matter at what point I would have decided to leave, it would have been pretty much the same question. It could be year ago or a year from now, and I think the question would not have changed - I can guarantee you that.

Anyway, what I would say is that 14 years is a pretty long time in this business, in any part of the world. I mean it's a dynamic industry. Some would say that 14 years is too long and perhaps that is the sensation I began to get at the beginning of 2006. It took me a year to come to the conclusion that it is time to move on and that there are lots of things to do elsewhere.

Did the stories start in March '06, when this bifurcation happened in STAR India's leadership? Was there was a feeling that your area of functioning was constrained?

I didn't see it as a area of constraint at all. If you look back, there was always going to be a time, when I would have to do something else - whether at STAR or somewhere else. So, it's not something that comes to me as a surprise. What I believe it was, it was a catalyst for me to actually start thinking what new opportunities existed outside STAR, and perhaps the media business.

Where does Peter Mukerjea go from here?

I can assure I won't be very far - I'm in the country and I've no desire to go and work anywhere else in the world at the moment. India is a fascinating market, whether it is in retail, media or telecom, which is now becoming world class.

What about the names being bandied about with yours, like Mukesh Ambani, Lachlan Murdoch etc?

No comment because those are completely speculative, and I've read them in the same newspapers as you have! I know both Mukesh Ambani and Lachlan Murdoch for sometime. It's completely coincidental that these names popped up when I'm leaving STAR.

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