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Avi Nir, Keshet CEO, Promises to Keep Pushing Envelope

'Crystal ball' intuition at work

Keshet CEO Avi Nir says his formula for selecting content is simple — he greenlights the shows that he personally would watch and skips those that he wouldn’t.

Consider Keshet’s dominance in the Israeli market and its ability, year after year, to produce the buzziest and biggest programs, and it becomes clear why many Israelis feel Nir’s intuition functions as a sort of crystal ball.

This summer, daily newspaper Haaretz included Nir in its list of the nation’s 100 most influential people, deeming him Israeli culture’s chief influencer.

“He long ago achieved quasi-mythical status,” Haaretz wrote. “Nir is regarded as the person who is able to predict what the viewing audience wants, satisfy their tastes precisely, and, time after time, create shows that will keep them glued to the screen.”

He has been at the helm of Keshet for 11 years and was the primary force behind its expansion abroad and its shift from a local broadcaster to an international production company. Those who work alongside Nir say he is a perfectionist and a multitasker, a workaholic with a stake in every single project that bears the Keshet name. He calls it an occupational hazard.

“The earth is moving so fast in our business that we just can’t take a nap,” Nir says during an interview at Keshet’s Tel Aviv HQ. “We just can’t take a rest. … This is not just a matter of my temperament or a neurosis or whatever you want to call it. It is the nature of this business.”

Nir’s star is rising in Hollywood, but it hasn’t changed him; he continues to dress down for work, as is the custom in Israel, and keeps his meetings refreshingly free of pretense and name-dropping. He can be self-effacing, too, admitting that he took a five-day vacation this summer only to spend his time on a Greek island consuming an entire book a day.

He is voracious, and he is beloved by the Israeli public for having the guts to bring their hometown dramas to the international stage. But his ascent has not been trouble-free. Critics have accused Keshet, as Haaretz once wrote, “of infantilizing” the audience.

Nir says the secret to managing Keshet is to keep it running like a startup, no matter how big or influential it becomes.

“I hope we will keep the mentality of a small organization, the mentality of being constantly on the edge, of pushing it,” he says. “And we will develop Keshet but keep it lean and mean. We want to be across the universe in a few major territories, but we don’t look at the big organizations of the world and say to ourselves that we want to be like them.”

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