21st Century Fox co-chief operating officer James Murdoch the company’s India business has evolved from Hindi entertainment to regional language broadcasting to becoming a national platform. Photo: Bloomberg
Star India Pvt. Ltd, a unit of 21st Century Fox, is likely to earn operating income of $1 billion by 2020, riding on its regional and sports content, said James Murdoch, co-chief operating officer, 21st Century Fox.
“We love the India business. It has now evolved enormously from Hindi entertainment to regional language broadcasting and now we are a national platform,” Murdoch said at the sixth annual Asia-Pacific video operators summit in Bali on Friday.
“The sports business for us is a new pillar and we are looking at the business in a long-term time frame,” Murdoch was quoted as saying in a company statement. “And if we keep innovating and investing in putting more creative and innovative content on screen, Star India will become a $1 billion Ebitda business by the turn of the decade.”
Ebitda, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, is a measure of operating profitability.
Star India will continue to deliver regional content across both entertainment and sports segments in the country, according to chief executive officer Uday Shankar.
“We used Asianet as a beachhead 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... 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 us,” Shankar said.
In February, Star India acquired Telugu television channel network Maa TV in its largest acquisition, for Rs.2,000 crore. Before that it acquired Asianet Communications Ltd in November 2008. Asianet operated three general entertainment channels in Malayalam, and two Kannada channels. Star India completed the buyout in May last year. It now has channels in six Indian languages and has a near-stranglehold over the sports broadcasting market in India.
“Sports broadcasting has been plagued by laziness and a lack of innovation, treated merely as a distribution agent of acquired rights, which is what we have tried to change with multiple local leagues,” Shankar said. “Creating a hierarchy of leagues across the country can be a huge empowering phenomenon.”
New sports leagues registered a revenue of Rs.434.4 crore in 2014, according to a report by media buying agency GroupM, a unit of WPP Plc.
The firm is also planning to invest more in sports infrastructure, said Sanjay Gupta, chief operating officer at Star India.
“One of the challenges that we are seeing is that almost all of the investment in sports is going into the rights cost. We are trying to change that by investing in basic sports infrastructure apart from rights, whether it is grooming players for an on-screen experience in Kabaddi (for the Pro Kabaddi League) or partnering to get the stadiums ready for the Indian Super League (ISL),” Gupta said.
“The innovation we have tried to do is around Kabaddi, and the response has been amazing. It is a short, high intensity sport with vast local connect.,” said Gupta. “Better engagement in sports will drive greater consumption.”