Billionaire Ambani brothers Mukesh and Anil and Bollywood superstars Salman Khan and Priyanka Chopra are among the dozen Indians named in Variety magazine’s list of 500 most influential business leaders shaping the global USD 2 trillion entertainment industry.
Other Indians in the list include writer-director Karan Johar, Star India CEO Uday Shankar, Essel Group Chairman Subhash Chandra, Aditya Chopra of Yash Raj Films, Balaji Telefilms’ Ekta Kapoor, Zee Entertainment CEO Punit Goenka and Siddharth Kapur of The Film and Television Producers Guild of India Ltd.
“Variety500 is an index of the 500 most influential business leaders shaping the global $2 trillion entertainment industry,” Variety said on its website. “Updated annually, the Variety500 reflects the accomplishments of its members over the previous 12 months. They were selected by the Variety editorial board, which conducted extensive research for its selections.”
Topping the list is Walt Disney Company Chairman and CEO Robert Iger, who “has a strong track record for taking savvy risks” with big-ticket acquisitions like USD 4.05 billion for ‘Star Wars’ owner Lucasfilm in 2012, USD 4 billion for Marvel in 2009 and USD 7.4 for Pixar Animation in 2006 paying off handsomely.
Wanda Media Group Chairman Jainlin Wang, actor producer Bradley Cooper, Sony Corp Chairman Kaz Hirai, writer J K Rowling, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos, pop star Beyonce, writer and director Patty Jenkins, Megal Ellison of Annapurna Pictures and Youtube CEO Susann Wojcicki also feature in the list.
Salman Khan, Variety said, is one of the unrelated Khan triumvirate comprising Aamir and Shah Rukh that has been ruling the Bollywood box office for decades. Of the top ten grossing films of all time, Salman has three, as does Shah Rukh, while Aamir has four.
“Unlike his contemporary Khans whose fan bases are staid by comparison, every Salman release generates mass hysteria across India, a frenzy surpassed only by the fans of South Indian superstar Rajinikanth,” it said.
Richest Indian Mukesh Ambani’s “USD 30 billion investment in Jio is a big deal there in digital entertainment, the fastest growing segment of the Indian media scene,” Variety said.
“India is poorly connected, with only some 200 million internet users and more than 800 million mobile connections with slow and expensive data. Jio aims to tap into the vast number of people who consume media on their mobile devices by providing high-speed data at costs that are at a fraction of their local competitors,” it said.
Jio’s media services allow users to access HD TV, music and news across devices from hundreds of channels, in various categories and languages. Reliance Industries aims to make Jio available to 90 per cent of India’s 1.25 billion population. Only 61 per cent of Indian households have a television set, it said.
“Ambani has been pushing deeper into media at the same time that his brother, Anil Ambani, has been slowly backing out of the sector with his rival outfit, Reliance Group,” it said.
After splitting Reliance Group with his brother, Anil Ambani “quickly identified media and entertainment as growth areas, buying up Adlabs in 2005, with cinemas, distribution and film processing as its core businesses.”
That was complemented by moves further into post-production, TV production and TV and radio broadcasting. In 2008, the company paid USD 1.2 billion to invest in Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks.
“But lately most of Reliance ADAG’s media moves have turned to ashes. Focusing increasingly on capital intensive infrastructure projects, Ambani has withdrawn in all but symbolic fashion from most of the entertainment positions he took a decade ago. Market leading positions in theaters and post-production crumbled and have been sold. TV joint ventures collapsed,” it said.
Ambani and Reliance Entertainment’s name continues to appear on the credits of a smattering of movies per year, thanks to a restructured deal with Steven Spielberg’s new Amblin Partners. Reliance Entertainment also retains a minority stake in Hollywood sales and finance company IM Global, after Ambani sold the majority to China’s Tang Media.
“Ambani is currently selling off a wide range of assets beyond the media sector to erase massive debt across his company,” it added.
On Priyanka Chopa, Variety said she had envisioned an engineering career but changed direction after winning the 2000 Miss World Pageant.
“Aditya Chopra is an enigmatic and influential figure in the Indian media industry that refuses to be voluntarily photographed and yet is responsible for content that influences millions,” it said. “As a producer, Chopra has the deciding word in the greenlighting process, and this has held true for the 60 odd projects that he has produced.”
Often travelling under the initials DSC, Subhash Chandra has come a long way since arriving in Delhi, age 20, with just Rs 17 in his pocket, Variety said, adding that in a country where family dynasties are the dominant forces, he has made his USD 6 billion fortune on his own.
“That has much to do with political connections he cultivated along the way and to reinventing himself several times over. He was a rice trader and a leisure park operator before moving into media,” it said.