Speaking at the Asia Pacific Pay-TV Operators Summit in Bali hosted from 22 to 24 April, 21st Century Fox co-COO James Rupert Murdoch said he expects Star India to cross operating profit of US $ 1bn (Rs 6,340 crore) by the end of 2020.
He noted that the business had now evolved from Hindi entertainment to regional language broadcasting and ‘is now a national platform’. “The sports business for us is a new pillar and we are looking at the business in a long term time frame. And if we keep innovating and investing in putting more creative and innovative content on screen, Star India will become a billion dollar EBIDTA by the turn of the decade,” added Murdoch.
On the aspect of regionalisation of the network, which was in the news this February for the acquisition of MAA TV’s Telugu channels, Uday Shankar, CEO, Star India, said, “We used Asianet as a beach head for the South and elevated the quality of content dramatically with sharper storytelling, involving the best of the creative fraternity and breaking the caste divide between film and TV. For logistic reasons outsourcing production might make sense, but unless you internalise the core creative skill, you will not be able to sustain success, which is why we have built a robust internal creative team to ensure this."
Dwelling on the sports push from the network, he said, "We have applied the same philosophy that we had in our entertainment business to sports – creating content with deep local affinity using the audience aggregation power that cricket gave you. Sports broadcasting has been plagued by laziness and lack of innovation, treated merely as a distribution agent of acquired rights which is what we have tried to change with multiple local leagues. If it’s your team that's playing you, even if it is not the best team, you would be deeply passionate about it. Creating a hierarchy of leagues across the country can be huge empowering phenomenon."
“One of the challenges that we are seeing is that almost all of the investment in sports is going into rights cost. We are trying to change that by investing in basic sports infrastructure apart from rights, whether it was grooming the players for an on screen experience in Kabaddi or partnering to get the stadiums ready for ISL,” explained Sanjay Gupta, COO, Star India.
On the subject of data, Uday Shankar underlined that while it can help understand patterns, to interpret them and take a leap on what should be created next would still require creativity. “No matter how much data we have, I don't believe we will be able to automate the definition of the next blockbuster," he added.