Feature

Shankar commits to “deeply” local biz

The Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific president, Uday Shankar, set a clear destination on Monday, telling staffers that the company “recognises the need for a sharp focus on building deeply local businesses”. 

 Unveiling his Asia-Pacific leadership team, Shankar said changes to the current market structure “will allow us to serve the strategic agenda in each market and... will facilitate our transformation into a direct-to-consumer company that rests on deep local foundations”. 

But Day Zero on Monday ended with only a marginal increase in clarity on the size and specifics of the new organisation, and didn’t address widespread worries among current staff about their jobs. 

For now, staff exits are led by Fox Networks Group (FNG) Asia Pacific/Middle East president, Zubin Gandevia.    

“After a long and distinguished career with Fox, [Zubin Gandevia] has decided to leave the company but has agreed to remain for a period of time to help transition the leadership of media networks in Southeast Asia,” Shankar said in a staff memo on Monday (1 April). 

Between now and whatever the period turns out to be, Gandevia will take care of the pay-TV channels business in Southeast Asia, which was the geographical piece missing in the global announcement made in December last year. 

As part of her role on the new team, Jessica Pouleur will lead strategy and business development, as well as take interim responsibility for Southeast Asia strategy. Pouleur is currently vice president, strategy and business development, based in Singapore. 

Perhaps the most vaguely defined role  on the new team for now goes to Amit Malhotra, who will lead emerging markets as well as content sales for Asia Pacific (excluding North Asia), reporting directly to Shankar with a dual reporting line to Janice Marinelli, who heads DTCI’s global content sales and distribution.

The new leadership team includes two execs from the former 21st Century Fox – Kurt Rieder and Jannie Poon, who takes over the corporate communications portfolio – along with Shankar’s India picks from the old Star India. 

Rieder, 20th Century Fox International’s EVP, theatrical distribution, will head the combined studios operation for the Asia-Pacific region, excluding India. 

Luke Kang will continue to lead the North Asia (Greater China, Japan and Korea) business, including direct country management of mainland China and Japan.

India country manager, Sanjay Gupta, also has direct responsibility for the studio business in India, while K Madhavan will lead Star India’s regional language media networks. 

As announced in December, Kylie Watson-Wheeler will continue to serve as country manager of Australia and New Zealand with direct responsibility for media networks and direct-to-consumer. 

Chafic Najia is country manager for the Middle East media cluster. 

In his memo, Shankar highlighted the “momentous opportunity to be able to chart the course of The Walt Disney Company in Asia Pacific and Middle East”. 

In a note shortly after the acquisition closed on 20 March, analysts Media Partners Asia (MPA) said the new Disney’s core media business across Asia Pacific and Middle East generated pro-forma revenues of US$6 billion in 2018, excluding consumer products and theme parks. India contributed 40% to the top-line, with Greater China and Japan together providing another 35%.

MPA flagged the roll out of local streaming platforms in Southeast and North Asia, anchored to local content in the mould forged, under the leadership of Shankar as head of India, by Hotstar.   MPA estimates Hotstar’s run rate revenues to be US$300 million.

ContentAsia eNewsletter, 1-14 April 2019