Uday Shankar, who played a big role and took major risks in a bid to redefine the Indian entertainment landscape and sports telecast ecosystem, will step down as president of The Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific and chairman, Star and Disney India, to pursue an entrepreneurial career.
Shankar will step down from his positions effective December 31 this year. The news was announced by Rebecca Campbell, chairman of the brand’s Direct-to-Consumer and International segment.
Since February 2019, Shankar has served as president, The Walt Disney Company APAC and chairman, Star and Disney India. Previously, he was president of 21st Century Fox for Asia and the chairman and CEO of Star India.
Under Shankar’s guidance, Star has launched multiple domestic sports leagues like those in kabaddi and football, and took forward the agenda to create a multi-sports culture for television viewers. He also consolidated Star’s sports broadcasting operations through 21st Century Fox’s acquisition of its joint venture with ESPN.
One of his masterstroke includes winning the IPL media rights bid by quoting Rs 16,347.50 crore for five years, from 2018 to 2022.
This year, however, big firms and companies have kept away from the Indian Premier League (IPL), with market sentiments low and there being a big question mark over the staging of sporting events.
According to a report in business magazine Forbes, 65 per cent of the 120 firms sponsoring various franchise teams this year are startups.
After Vivo, which had paid a whopping Rs 2199 crore for five years (2019-2023), i.e. Rs 440 crore per year, pulled out as title sponsor earlier this year, gaming company Dream11 bought the title rights for almost half the price, at Rs 222 crore this year.
Brands such as DLF, Pepsi and Vivo have usually been associated with IPL title sponsorship all along.
Other startups backing up the league this year include Edtech unicorn Unacademy and credit card payments company Cred. PayTM, which too is a relatively new company, is the fourth major sponsor from the digital world. The other two in the central sponsorship pool are Tata Motors Altroz and Ceat Tyres.
Shankar had taken over the leadership of Star India in 2007. Under his leadership, Hotstar, which has now been rebranded as Disney+ Hotstar, became one of the leading streaming platforms in the region.
Over the next three months, Shankar will work closely with Campbell to identify his successor to ensure a smooth transition.
“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,” Shankar said while talking about his decision to step down.