THE RISK-TAKER

Business Today - - NEWS -

Star In­dia CEO Uday Shankar rev­els in tak­ing risk. He re­cently won the broad­cast rights to In­dia’s most ex­pen­sive sports prop­erty, the In­dian Premier League ( IPL), with his bid of ` 16,347.5 crore for a five- year pe­riod. (Sony ear­lier had the rights for a 10-year pe­riod for `8,200 crore.) An­a­lysts cal­cu­late that Star would need to earn `55 crore per match in or­der to turn a profit. But that is only one of the risks Shankar is tak­ing cur­rently. He plans to bring TED talks for the first time to the tele­vi­sion plat­form and has re­port­edly con­tracted to pay `30 crore a week to Shah Rukh Khan to host the show. Around the globe, no­body so far has tried to turn TED into a TV pro­gramme, and no one knows whether the for­mat of TED can be adapted to tele­vi­sion. Shankar is con­fi­dent though that it will work out, and there are other things he is bet­ting on as well. He has launched Hot­star, a OTT ri­val of Net­flix and Ama­zon Prime videos, and he ex­pects that to gain trac­tion over time. He has bet heav­ily on other sports as well – notably Kab­badi. He is also putting money be­hind a new, mass me­dia chan­nel called Star Bharat. Since he was named CEO a decade ago, Shankar has of­ten bet against con­ven­tional wis­dom. He dropped two long run­ning and highly pop­u­lar soaps to change pro­gram­ming. He put money be­hind re­gional chan­nels when they were still small markets. Those bets paid off and Star be­came quite prof­itable, though it has been mak­ing big losses for the past cou­ple of years. But Shankar is un­fazed and says he is bet­ting for the long term.

I asked Shankar if the old say­ing that en­ter­tain­ment me­dia flour­ishes when the econ­omy is down and peo­ple are de­pressed is true. Shankar said that while peo­ple might watch more en­ter­tain­ment, ad­ver­tis­ers tend to spend less money. So, a down econ­omy is cer­tainly not great for en­ter­tain­ment chan­nels ei­ther.

On the topic of the econ­omy, have we hit the bot­tom as yet, and will the re­cov­ery in GDP growth be ro­bust and quick from now on? Peo­ple ar­gu­ing for a quick re­cov­ery point to the rise in trac­tor, auto and com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle sales, the im­proved IIP and PMI in man­u­fac­tur­ing as ev­i­dence. They point out that ex­ports have started ris­ing once again, and the GST dis­rup­tion is likely to be over in an­other quar­ter.

I am not too op­ti­mistic for a quick re­cov­ery, though. We might well have bot­tomed out as far as eco­nomic growth is con­cerned but pri­vate in­vest­ment is still too low and ca­pac­ity util­i­sa­tion is re­fus­ing to budge be­yond 71 per cent. Un­less con­sump­tion takes ca­pac­ity util­i­sa­tion to over 80 per cent, I fear new green­field projects will re­main scarce. And un­less pri­vate con­sump­tion and pri­vate in­vest­ment both fire to­gether, re­cov­ery will be slow.

pros­en­jit.datta@in­to­day.com @Pro­saicView

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