21st Century Fox has elevated Star India Chairman and CEO Uday Shankar to President, 21st Century Fox, Asia, effective immediately. 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, which has 60-plus channels across entertainment and sports and eight languages, as well as digital video platform Hotstar. Zubin Gandevia, President of Fox Networks Group Asia, 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.
Shankar has been at the helm of Star India since October 2007 and led 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. Prior to joining Star, he was the CEO and Editor of Media Content and Communications Services (MCCS), which operated Star News. He was also Editor and News Director at the TV Today Group, where he was involved with the launch of Aaj Tak in 2000 and Headlines Today in 2003.
There’s a great Caravan profile on Uday Shankar here.
A former member of Star News’s marketing team who worked closely with Shankar described him to me as a “seasoned journalist asking the right questions in his head with a terrific business sense of what sells and what doesn’t”. The marketer told a revealing story about how Shankar undertook changes at the network. At one point, Shankar called his team into the office and told them that he wanted to change the channel’s viewership profile and attract larger female audiences. He ordered a huge portion of raan from Nizam’s, a well known kebab shop—“he’s a foodie,” said the marketer—and sat munching it while he informed the team that he was intending to launch an afternoon show that would take a journalistic approach to the daily serials, reporting plot developments and behind-the-scenes gossip about popular actors.
“We had quite an argument,” recalled the marketer, who said he told Shankar that he was not in favour of “prostituting the news”. “I abused him, but eventually he reasoned with me and asked me to at least get the advertisers’ points of view,” the marketer said. “Two days later, I had to agree that Uday had managed to sell a great idea.” Advertisers loved the concept, which eventually became the show Saas, Bahu aur Saazish.