Stars shine on Uday Shankar. To helm 21st Century Fox Asia

06 Dec,2017

 

By A Correspondent

 

It’s a piece of news that every Indian media and entertainment industry person will be proud of. Or envious of. 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Star India, and Rupert Murdoch’s entertainment empire has announced the elevation of Star India Chairman and CEO Uday Shankar to President, 21st Century Fox, Asia. It is effective immediately. Shankar will continue to lead Star India. This, it may be noted, is an additional responsibility.

 

It is interesting that the news comes even as discussions with Disney have reached a fairly advanced level for the sale 21CF (as 21st Century Fox is better known). In fact, according to some observers, the deal with Disney could well be inked before the year ends.

 

But there is more reason then this ‘Mere Bharatiya Mahaan’ sentiment. Shankar has possibly none of the makings of one of India’s Top 5 media conglomerates. He is an MPhil graduate from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). He started out as a political journalist, worked in the print media for a bit and finally helming the editorial team at AajTak and Headlines Today. He was later appointed CEO and Editor of Media Content and Communications Services, the holding company of Star News (now ABP News).

 

And then, in a move that surprised many, except those who knew him very well, he was appointed CEO of Star India. The network was doing well, but staring at competition from existing networks and with two of its top executives launching general entertainment channels.

 

Shankar has been at the helm of Star India since October 2007 and has guided the transformation of Star into a diversified media company, leading initiatives in distribution through Media Pro, movies through Fox Studio, regional television through Asianet, and sports, following 21CF’s (then News Corp) acquisition of its joint venture with ESPN in 2012. His tenure has been marked by persistent leadership in television through innovative programming and investments in leading technologies, both of which have set the benchmark for the industry. So notes a 21CF communique. But we don’t need to be told that. The fact is that in the last decade-odd, Uday Shankar stands tallest amongst M&E professional captains and has led the organisation with entrepreneurial zeal.

 

He has also led industry associations and has ensured that it follows the path of professionalism. He has taken on the government and TRAI when he has needed to and been a strong ally of successive governments in its various programmes.

 

In his new role, Shankar will lead 21st Century Fox’s (21CF) video businesses across all of Asia, including Star India and Fox Networks Group, and work closely with 21CF leadership on key strategic initiatives in the region. He will continue to serve as Chairman and CEO for Star India, a key driver of 21CF’s growth and one of India’s largest media and entertainment companies, comprising 60-plus channels across entertainment and sports and eight languages, as well as leading digital video platform Hotstar.

 

Said 21st Century Fox Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch and CEO James Murdoch: “Uday’s new role will enhance our strategic focus across all of Asia and enable us to further capture opportunities, building on the transformation Star India has driven in our most important growth market. Under Uday’s leadership, our India business has firmly established itself as a world-class asset with durable businesses across entertainment, sports, satellite distribution and OTT. His strategic vision has put 21CF at the forefront of content and distribution in one of the world’s fastest growing economies, and we are very fortunate to benefit from Uday’s expanded leadership at a global level.”

 

Zubin Gandevia, President of Fox Networks Group Asia (who old timers will remember for the cable business he ran in Mumbai), will continue to oversee video brands across 14 markets and now report to Shankar under this realigned regional structure. 21CF’s film business in Asia will continue to report directly to Stacey Snider, Chairman and CEO of 20th Century Fox Film.

 

Meanwhile, for journalists across the country, whether they are from Patna or Pune, Mumbai or Meerut, the rise and rise of Uday Shankar speaks a lot for how hard (and smart) work always works. Even in the big, big world of media and entertainment.

A previous version of this story had an incorrect headline. Dunno how it happened, but it did. VIBGYOR-faced 🙁

 

 

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