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Walt Disney kicks off Fox merger in India

The integration of the Indian units of Walt Disney Company and 21st Century Fox has begun after the completion of the USD 71-billion acquisition of the latter. Walt Disney had recently announced that it had full control of a number of 21st Century Fox entities, including the company’s entire movie studio division, its 30 percent stake in streaming service Hulu, and the Fox Television Group, including Star India.

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The coming together of Star and Disney’s various units, including films, television, and digital, will see the emergence of a powerful media and entertainment conglomerate in the country. To ensure the transition is smooth, the two majors are merging one division at a time. As part of the first phase, the movie studio business of the two companies will be brought together. Integration of the TV and digital units will happen in the next phase.

In a recent meeting with Star India Chairman, Uday Shankar and Fox Star Studios chief executive officer, Vijay Singh, the Disney team, had sought clarification with respect to the studio’s various projects, including the recent Madhuri Dixit-Ajay Devgan-starrer Total Dhamaal. Additionally, the meeting also brought to the fore the issue of team size once the merger is executed. Both Disney and Fox Star Studios are looking at overlapping roles and functions closely to ensure the combined team is lean. While it is unclear at this stage how many people are expected to get pink slips following the merger of the film divisions, at an overall level, Star is likely to let 350 people go across functions.

The Fox Star Studios team will also report to the Disney finance team in Los Angeles as part of the merger process. Apart from Shankar, who was elevated as Asia Pacific head of Walt Disney recently, Star India managing director, Sanjay Gupta will be the country manager of the combined entity. Gupta will also have direct responsibility for the studio business in India. K Madhavan will lead regional-language media networks at the merged entity, while Amit Malhotra will lead emerging markets at the merged entity. Sanjay Jain, who is the chief financial officer (CFO) at Star India, will join Shankar at the Asia-Pacific unit as its finance head, while Amita Maheshwari will lead human resources at Walt Disney APAC.

While Disney is yet to launch a video streaming service of its own in India, the company is expected to get a huge leg-up with Hotstar becoming a part of the merged entity.

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