Sab Kanaujia has stepped down as the President, Entertainment Services, Verismo Networks and GM, Mela with immediate effect. Sab Kanaujia stated in his personal blog, that the reason for his resignation was the disagreement with Prakash Bhalerao, the CEO of Verismo Networks on the strategy and the direction in which Verismo’s multi-platform consumer entertainment service Mela was headed.
He claimed that the Verismo Board agreed with his strategy on several aspects but were not ready to confront Prakash, who is a majority stakeholder in Verismo. Going forward, Kanaujia writes that he has submitted a proposal to the Verismo board to spin Mela out from Verismo as an independent entity controlled by the management team, and is currently in discussion with the board. He stated that if they don’t reach on an agreement, he will open a new company for which he is already in talks with a few potential strategic partners. He said:
“South Asia is the most diverse content factory in the world. Bollywood is the biggest film industry in the world from annual production and consumption perspective. There is not a single service today that fulfills the demand of global fans for this content in a convenient manner. If one gets the execution right with the right strategy, it presents an extremely attractive business opportunity. We have some really interesting ideas on how to capitalize on this opportunity.”
Verismo in India
In August 2011, Intel Capital funded Verismo Networks had acquired Sab Kanaujia’s Digital Entertainment Corporation of India (DECI) and launched an entertainment services division in India with Sab Kanaujia as its President (Entertainment Services). A month later, it launched a consumer entertainment service called Mela which offered premium South Asian video content including 40 live television channels covering news and entertainment, 250 Bollywood and regional movies and select premium videos spread across different categories. The company had stated that the service will initially target expatriate South Asian community in the United States and extend it to other regions in a phased manner.
The company had launched an iOS app for Mela in January 2012. While the app was available for free download, there was a monthly subscription fee of $4.99/month for unlimited access to the company’s movie catalogue which it had claimed to have more than 1,000 movies including titles like Bheja Fry 2, Dostana, Band Baaja Baaraat, New York, and others.
In March 2012, Verismo’s Mela had launched a First Day First Show initiative, wherein it released Bollywood movies in international markets simultaneous to their theatrical release in India. These movies were available across various platforms like Roku, iPad and on their Mela HD Set Top Box.
Earlier this month, Verismo had released its MelaTV app on multiple platforms like Roku, iPad, Android tablets, Windows and Mac OS desktops, and other Internet-enabled devices and had extended the service to all regions, allowing Indian users to access live TV and on demand content through various Internet connected devices. The app offered Tamil and Telugu entertainment content including entertainment channels, cooking shows, sports and live news, educational programs, and devotional videos along with an in-house movie channel called MelaFlix which aired Telugu and Tamil films and popular Bollywood titles on a subscription basis. The company had claimed that it had tied up with several content providers at launch, including Sun Network, Yash Raj Films, ETV Network, Shemaroo, and Telugu One among others.
Role in NBC Universal: Prior to his role in Mela and DECI, Sab Kanaujia served as the VP (Digital Product Strategy & Development) at NBC Universal for three years until he quit in October 2009. In this role, he was involved in NBC’s investment in NDTV Ltd and had spent quite a lot of time in India working with NDTV Convergence, significantly for the relaunch of NDTV.com. He was also responsible for the launch of NBCU Digital Solutions in India, which provided publishers with scalable digital solutions and had enabled the launch of TenSports.com as a cricket live-streaming destination in partnership with Ten Sports.