Uday Shankar, the journalist turned chief executive of Star India, has put in his resignation papers. He will leave the company by the end of this year, ending his 13 year-stint at the top of India’s largest entertainment network. In addition to his role of Chairman of Star & Disney India, Shankar was given the additional responsibility of Asia Pacific region by the Walt Disney Company in 2019, after Disney acquired 21st Century Fox from Rupert Murdoch.
Under his leadership, Star also launched Hotstar, which is now India’s largest over-the-top (OTT) platform, which has now gone global in its footprint with offerings in the US, Canada and the UK. Prior to Star, he was CEO and editor of Star News, the then joint venture between Star India and ABP Group.Shankar was also the editor and news director at TV Today Group, where he spearheaded the launch of Aaj Tak, a leading Hindi news channel, in 2000 and Headlines Today ((Now India Today TV), in 2003.
Under his leadership, Star India also acquired Asianet as well as bought out joint venture partner ESPN’s stake in ESPN Star Sports India (ESS).He was also instrumental in launching multiple domestic sports leagues like those in Kabaddi and Football. Under his leadership, Star also launched Hotstar, which is now India’s largest over-the-top (OTT) platform, which has now gone global in its footprint with offerings in the US, Canada and the UK.
In his stint at Star, his hallmark was making aggressive bets and boldly carried out new concepts and ideas that often came to define a market. Be it his Rs 16,347.5 crore all or nothing bid for the global media rights of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Rs 6,138.1 crore bid for the BCCI rights, or Rs 2,400 crore buyout deal for Maa TV Network, Shankar took bets, which very few in the industry could.
On Thursday morning, Rebecca Campbell, chairman of Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer & International segment, said in a statement that Shankar has decided to move on. Shankar said that he had always believed in the power of creativity and cutting-edge technology to create a better world and considered himself incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to do so at Star, 21CF and later at The Walt Disney Company. 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,” he said.
While there have been speculations in the past about Shankar leaving Disney, they were never substantiated by neither him nor the company. Shankar had said that while the thought of what next had come to his mind but he had not decided on anything. On Thursday, Shankar said that for some time now he had been contemplating the question of how he can give back to the country, community and the industry that had given him 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,” says Shankar. When Shankar was named CEO of Star India 2007, it seemed like a temporary arrangement after the top talent had left the network along with the two co-CEOs – Peter Mukerjea and Sameer Nair, who both quit to launch their own channels.
The India operations used to report into the Hong Kong office, and the network wasn’t in the best of shape but thanks to Uday Shankar, Star regained its status and popularity soon. While the flagship channel Star Plus was still firing with the K-series shows from Balaji Telefilms, rival channels – Zee TV and Sony Television were giving it a tough fight.
“I had no experience of running an entertainment company,” Shankar had gone on record earlier. “I don’t grudge anybody for thinking that I won’t be able to do the job (of CEO). There was nothing in my background to say that I could. But what people don’t realize is that a good journalist’s understanding of the pulse of the nation is far better than most people. I learned and got the right people from outside media.”