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K Madhavan Is Star-Disney India head, Uday Shankar To Oversee Hotstar

Media veteran K Madhavan has been appointed the country head of Star and Disney India in a top-level reorganisation announced on Friday.

The rejig will also see Uday Shankar, chairman of Star and Disney in India, directly overseeing Hotstar, pitting him against former colleagues Sanjay Gupta and Ajit Mohan, who now head Google and Facebook, respectively. Madhavan’s appointment is effective from January 1. In an internal note to employees, Shankar, who is also president of The Walt Disney Company Asia-Pacific, said: “For the time being, I shall have a direct oversight on Hotstar. And the Hotstar leadership will work directly with me.”

Both Gupta and Mohan have worked on the Hotstar business while at Star. Mohan was the chief executive officer of Hotstar till the end of 2018, reporting directly to Gupta, who was elevated to country manager of Star and Disney in April. He was managing director of Star India earlier. Madhavan, the Number 3 in the pecking order at Star, has been managing director of its south business since 2016. In April, he was elevated to run all regional language channels within the Star network. He will oversee all television operations for the broadcaster, including Hindi and regional languages, as part of his new role.

“Star is seeking continuity with the elevation of Madhavan. He is a seasoned hand, who’s been in the system for long,” said a media industry executive, who knows Madhavan well.

Formerly with Asianet, Madhavan joined Star in 2008 after the latter acquired a 51 percent stake in the channel, popular in the Kerala market then. Star eventually took full control and ownership of the channel in 2014 by which time Madhavan had taken Asianet to other markets in the south, sources said.

But handling national television operations will not be easy at a time when the broadcasting market in India is heading towards a consolidation. Sony Pictures Network is talking to billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Network18 Media & Investments for a possible stake buy. Some other options on the table include a merger of the entertainment businesses of Sony and Network18. The latter has a 51 percent stake in Viacom18, the joint venture that runs the Colors entertainment channel.

According to the data by the Broadcast Audience Research Council, Star’s All-India viewership (excluding news) stands at 20 percent, Zee Entertainment comes close at 18 percent, while Sony Pictures Network and Viacom18 have a 9 per cent share each in the market.

Hotstar, meanwhile, is the largest over-the-top (OTT) platform in India, with a subscriber of 200 million. On Tuesday, Shankar said Hotstar had crossed 400 million downloads this year, with the number expected to grow as the OTT player increasing sports and entertainment content.

“A paradigm shift is happening as far as viewing habits go. About 200 million people are coming and watching Hotstar without any cricket, for whatever length of time in a month. Compare that with television where the reach is about 700 million in a month. It tells you how comfortably and seamlessly consumers in this country have taken to watching content on mobile phones,” he said.―Business Standard

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