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Published on: Oct. 27, 2020, 8:52 a.m.
The rise of a star
  • Shankar: rich legacy; Photo: Sanjay Borade

By Arzoo Dina

He’s been credited with successfully building one of the largest, diversified media and entertainment houses in the country. And after spending well over a decade at the helm, it was announced recently that Uday Shankar would be stepping down from his role as president, The Walt Disney Company APAC and chairman, Star and Disney India effective 31 December, 2020.

According to a statement released by The Walt Disney Company, over the next three months Shankar will work closely with Rebecca Campbell, chairman of Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international segment, to identify his successor and ensure a smooth transition. 

The media veteran has a rich legacy in this space, having taken charge of Star India in 2007 as CEO and being tasked with growing the broadcast firm into a diversified media entity. Under his leadership, it is said to have grown to become a Rs18,000-crore conglomerate.

Speaking about his decision to step down, Shankar said in the same statement that he will be looking forward to focusing on mentoring a new generation of entrepreneurs. “As I look back on this journey, I take pride in having set ambitious goals in my professional career, and achieving all that we set out to do. For some time now, I have been contemplating the question of how I give back to the country, community and the industry that have given me so much. I think the best way to express my gratitude to all of them will be to support and mentor a new generation of entrepreneurs as they set out to create transformational solutions that will have a positive impact on countless lives.” He added that the intention is to partner with global investors and pioneers to achieve this.

Forays into new frontiers

Over the years, Shankar has guided the transformation of Star from a traditional media company to a disruptive and dynamic media house, leading initiatives in distribution through media, movies through Fox Star Studios, regional television through Asianet, consolidating its sports broadcasting operations through 21st Century Fox’s acquisition of its joint venture with ESPN – which has led to Star Sports becoming one of the most prominent broadcasters in this space, along with betting big on digital entertainment through the launch of the content platform, Hotstar (now known as Disney+ Hotstar) back in 2015, which has also expanded its footprint globally.

He also led Star’s aggressive foray into regional and local language programming, transforming the company into a content powerhouse, which now broadcasts more than 30,000 hours of content every year. During his tenure, several marquee sports properties were launched, including domestic leagues ranging from football, hockey, kabaddi and tennis, along with bagging the coveted global broadcasting and digital media rights of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

One of the key milestones was Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox, which included Star India and its assets like Hotstar, giving the company a leg-up in the cluttered and competitive OTT marketplace in India.

It’s been a euphoric rise for the media executive, having started his career in news broadcasting to crafting a unique growth strategy, complemented by his astute business sense at Star, and later on, overseeing operations spread across several countries. Since February 2019, Shankar served as president, The Walt Disney Company APAC and chairman, Star & Disney India.

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