Peter Mukerjea: Rupert & Son

01 Mar,2012

By Peter Mukerjea

 

So, it’s finally happened that James, or JRM as he is known within the company, has stepped down. I’d said that he should (see Firstpost.com article) and for whatever it’s worth, I’m glad that he has.

 

Enough has been written and no doubt more will be written about the rights and wrongs of the people involved in the entire phone hacking case and we will never know who will finally go to jail for the crimes that are alleged to have been committed.

 

But that would be looking back and surely it’s much more fun looking forward and trying to gauge what’s about to happen next. If Rupert is true to his word, JRM will now be spending more time on international operations and on the TV business at large . Now that leads me to suggest that he should for Newscorp’s sake spend at least 75% of his time in India looking at new business opportunities that exist in the country. STAR experienced it’s highest ever growth in it’s business under JRM’s watch when he was the CEO in Asia. That’s not a coincidence, I can assure you. Conversely, STAR experienced it’s lowest growth when JRM left the Asia region and handed it over to pixies in Hong Kong who had no clue about India. For example, the lady who was given the baton by JRM had never visited India ever in her life. Strange decision, it has to be said.

 

JRM, on the other hand, was a respected executive and was seen as a path-breaking scion of his father. And the fact that not everyone loved him was simply par for the course and to be expected. He was effective in reshaping STAR’s fortunes and turning a loss making company into a profitable one.

 

Incidentally I continue to believe that none of the new channels that popped up in 2007/8 would have happened if Rupert had not taken his eye off Asia but he moved JRM to London to run SKY and with that opened up the gates for newcomers. Some channels failed to make the grade – 9X & Imagine for example, and others did well – Colors & 9XM for instance, but none of these should ever have been allowed to get started given the complete dominance that STAR had on the market. And all the people that went to run these channels, including myself , were almost all from STAR.

 

Since then STAR has held up well, although after a wobbly start. Credit for which should be given wholly to JRM for giving autonomy to the current leadership in managing their business and most importantly cutting them loose from the Hong Kong intermediary, which was rightly cut to size.

 

JRM’s big opportunity is now to push ahead with developing a range of new TV and other media products for the India market and enable it to grow speedily to create a very clear leadership position with plenty of blue sky space between the No1 and the rest. And only he can make that happen by physically being there and making the big decisions which would otherwise be lost in power point presentations between numerous layers of management.

 

This would in turn spur ZEE and Sony and MTV and the rest to do the same and compete with each other and with the pace that STAR would have set for them. This will then collectively turbo-charge and accelerate the industry as a whole and taking full advantage of the economic growth that the country is experiencing. The next 10 years for the media business in India will be huge and despite the slowdown in the global economy the pace of growth will be better than almost anywhere else in the world.

 

JRM once said “let’s make the best use of a crisis” or words to that effect and I think this is a crisis that has presented itself for just that opportunity. He has moved to New York from London but may be he should have a home in Mumbai too and really shake up the market. There’s tons to do with a very exciting future for a 40-year-old – like JRM, which regular or even above average executives will simply not be able to take full advantage of. They can at best take limited risk, if at all – but JRM can and he should.

 

Will he or won’t he? Or will he slip in and out of the country quietly, once very few months and leave the big opportunity to the pixies once again? If he ends up doing that he will have missed a great opportunity to grow the business and also to get himself back up and be recognised as being one of the best TV executives in the world. After all, he is the son of Rupert.

 

Although it started as a fortnightly column, Peter Mukerjea’s Media Mullings will now appear regularly on MxMIndia, but with no definite frequency.

 

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3 responses to “Peter Mukerjea: Rupert & Son”

  1. EV says:

    Well, I will pray to God for this. Hope this will happen!!

  2. raj says:

    “Media Mullings will now appear regularly on MxMIndia, but with no definite frequency ” huh oxymoronish !

  3. Pradeep Prabhu says:

    Amen!