Mumbai: Anil Ambani’s plans to create an entertainment empire appear to be firming up as media buyers suggest he has recruited Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd chief executive officer Pradeep Guha to head the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group’s television venture.
As many as 16 TV channels across genres, such as music, movies and general entertainment are in the pipeline, say people familiar with the plans but who did not want to be named.
Both the principals were not willing to talk about the move, news of which stems from Guha having told friends that he wouldn’t be renewing his contract with Zee.
Greener pastures: Pradeep Guha, CEO, Zee Entertainment Enterprises.
Rajesh Sawhney, president of Reliance Entertainment Ltd, said he had “no comment” on the news of about hiring. Guha declined to discuss his contract with Zee saying, “It’s personal and I don’t want to discuss it.” He also said the information about him joining Reliance is “completely untrue.”
Mint couldn’t independently ascertain his hiring or if there was a non-compete clause in Guha’s Zee contract that would require him to not sign up with a competing business for a period of time.
If the younger Ambani does manage to bring Guha on board, his credentials will give the television efforts an instant credibility.
Guha joined Zee on 1 January 2005 and, through savvy programming strategy, has helped the channel come close to market leader Star India Pvt. Ltd in terms of viewership in the lucrative general entertainment space. Prior to this, he was with Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd for some 25 years and was instrumental in the success of the Times of India Group. When he left end 2004, he was president of the Times Group and on its board.
Reliance Entertainment is in new media, filmed entertainment and TV broadcasting and plans to enter direct-to-home broadcasting under Reliance Bluemagic brand. Earlier this month, it announced that billionaire George Soros had picked up a 3% stake for $100 million, giving the company a potential valuation of Rs3.33 billion.
The group acquired majority stake in Adlabs Films Ltd in 2005, one of the largest entertainment companies in India, which has interests in film processing, production, exhibition and digital cinema. It already has presence in radio business (BIG 92.7 FM) and is releasing music under the BIG Music label. It launched Bigflicks.com recently, which allows video downloads and rentals to the world wide community. Ambani also started Big Motion Pictures, a motion picture studio that has world-class facilities and is doing a great deal in regional cinema. The group also has other ventures such as Jump games (developer of mobile games), Bigadda.com (social networking website) and Zapak.com (gaming portal.)