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Uday Shankar to step down from Disney Asia Pacific, Star India by end of year

Uday Shankar is departing Star India and Disney Asia Pacific, it was announced on Wednesday. Shankar has been chair and CEO of Star India for thirteen years, since 2007, and President of the Walt Disney Company’s Asia Pacific business since February 2019, soon after Disney acquired Star through its purchase of 21st Century Fox. Disney said he will stay on until a successor is appointed for a smooth transition.

Rebecca Campbell, chair of Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International, who oversees Hotstar and Star India at Disney, said, “With the successful launch of Disney+ throughout the region, he has helped put The Walt Disney Company in a commanding position in this dynamic and incredibly strategic part of the world.”

In a statement, Shankar said what he was going to do after his departure from Disney: “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. I intend to partner with global investors and pioneers to achieve this.”

On the digital front, Shankar oversaw Hotstar’s aggressive ad- and IPL-supported growth starting with its launch in 2015, culminating last year in 18.6 million concurrent viewers on the platform, which is likely a world record for content streamed online.

A few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Shankar lamented the overreliance of Indian media businesses — Star included — on advertising revenue, which fell sharply in the months following March. “All of us are guilty of this,” Shankar said at FICCI e-FRAMES 2020. “We decided to be shortsighted and subsidise our products, to create hurdles for smaller challengers. That has become a very big setback for the industry. If the industry has to grow, what has to be fixed is our ability to get people to pay for what they consume.”

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

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