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Monday, August 03, 2020

‘The IPL experience is important for the love of cricket, to signal that life triumphs’

In an e-Adda hosted by The Indian Express, Uday Shankar, President, The Walt Disney Company (Asia Pacific) and Chairman, Star & Disney India, spoke on broadcasting in the time of Covid-19 and tensions with China, the possibility of conducting IPL and why TV will survive in India

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: July 5, 2020 9:07:54 am
Coronavirus outbreak, India china standoff, Walt Disney, cricket, IPL experience, Indian Express adda, Indian express news Uday Shankar, President, The Walt Disney Company (Asia Pacific) and Chairman, Star & Disney India

In an e-Adda hosted by The Indian Express, Uday Shankar, President, The Walt Disney Company (Asia Pacific) and Chairman, Star & Disney India, spoke on broadcasting in the times of Covid-19 and tensions with China, the possibility of conducting IPL and why television will survive in India. Shankar was in conversation with The Indian Express Group Executive Director Anant Goenka and National Sports Editor Sandeep Dwivedi

On the crises that surround us

I think it’s a perfect storm. I don’t think in our memory, any of us would have imagined that there would be so many crises coming together at the same time, each worse than the other. The Covid-19 crisis is a really serious one, it’s likely to affect everybody. As a newsman, you tend to look at both sides. First the bad news, and then the silver lining in it. I think the silver lining is that India has still done a lot better than a lot of other countries. The crisis of Covid-19 could have been a lot worse, given the unique challenges of this country. If we were having this conversation in April or early May, the economic situation looked really, really bad. While some of the economic fears were exaggerated, as it is turning out to be, some of them were actually understated. So, as we play along, over the next few months, my biggest problem is that it’s difficult to take a fix on the economy, primarily because we still don’t have a fix on the trajectory of the infection itself. And that’s the single most dynamic variable there. If the infection continues to grow, the graph as they say doesn’t flatline and starts coming down, then all projections can be impacted by that. And on top of that, the whole Chinese tension on the border, it’s a real serious one, but I also think that these are two very strong, mature countries. And already there are signs that people are trying to resolve the tension on both sides. But the perfect atmosphere of fear that it has created in this country is a real cause for worry. People need to be fearless, especially in times of crisis. And what concerns me the most is that we have some real crisis, and the fear is making it worse.

On the ban on Chinese apps

This is an unprecedented mix of storms and crises that we are living through. And rationality is not the default mode for anyone at this time. Probably, there are other, better ways of handling this, frankly, because it doesn’t help anyone or resolve the tension. But in a real world, symbolism sometimes gets the better of rational decision-making.

Uday Shankar was in conversation with The Indian Express Group Executive Director Anant Goenka (left) and National Sports Editor Sandeep Dwivedi (riight).

On the rise of protectionism and the sentiment against globalisation

First and foremost – and this is my personal point of view – we are going through a massive reaction against globalisation. Globalisation is disintegrating, if not already disintegrated everywhere. We’re seeing the rise of protectionism. The advocates and drivers of globalisation should have been mindful of all this, because the unbridled globalisation that was going on, without any concern for people at the bottom of the pyramid, whether they were benefiting from globalisation or it was just rhetoric. In democratic politics, it would be difficult for any political establishment or leader to ignore that forever. If globalisation meant lots of FDI and money that came in, foreign goods were also flooding the market. It would lead to a reaction. And that is where a model like Star India is a relevant model that everyone should think about. Star is a foreign company, owned by foreign entities — first, by News Corp and Fox, and now by The Walt Disney Company, which has acquired the 21st Century Fox company, but Star is – in the minds of the consumers, of the people here – in its brand, culture, content and product, in every respect, it’s a truly Indian company. Indians run it, Indians create the product and Indians offer it for Indians. It’s customised for Indians. And that is a model where it’s a good mix of globalisation and localisation. You cannot disregard one or the other. Globalisation has its own advantages, and we wouldn’t have been able to build Star India, or do the kind of things we have done, including revival of something as deep and innate as kabaddi, which is truly an Indian tradition, but it was bankrolled by the money that came from global corporations. If you do not do that, there would be issues. And the advocates of globalisation tended to disregard that and now, unfortunately, we are seeing a reaction to that.

On the impact of a boycott of Chinese firms and products

First of all, in national interest, every government has the right to decide what they want to do, and everybody has to comply with that, whether we like it or not. But, the second point – and that’s a very material point, as I’m seeing this being discussed everywhere – when we invested in cricket, we did not invest on the back of companies from any country, or of any specific companies. We invested in cricket because we believed that cricket had power, which comes from its popularity and depths of its engagement with Indian consumers. I’m a firm believer that if people like something so passionately, there will be people who would be willing to put money behind that. There’s a monetisation model that you can create. So, if company X or Y is not there, because in the larger social or national interest it’s been decided, we’ll have to figure out a different monetisation model.

On Unilever stopping advertising on Facebook and what it shows

I think the advertisers are beginning to respond to a lot of these pressure points. But then, advertisers are part of the society. They create their products and services and sell to the society; they need to exist and they need the endorsement of the society. So, if there is a certain trend in society that’s becoming stronger, it is only natural for them to respond to that, and that is exactly what’s happening today. Also, when you’re putting money, and when you’re sticking your brand, you’re on the back of some media vehicle, you don’t want any negative publicity. Sometimes it’s irrational, sometimes it’s tactical, but people just want to be careful.

On how the content you share reflects your identity

It’s not a new trend, it was always the latent trend, I think it’s being articulated and been bubbling up a lot more vocally now. Also, we must realise that the volume of content that is getting created is enormously high. And it’s growing on an everyday basis. And how people navigate through that content and make their choices is a reflection of their own priorities, beliefs and preferences.

On whether audiences are becoming thin-skinned

I think we are all getting very, very thin-skinned in general. As audiences, as establishments, as political leadership, as businessmen, as media people, as a society, globally. In this country too, what particularly concerns me is that we are becoming increasingly intolerant. We all want to have the freedom, authority and space to express our point of view and that we think is the right to be liberal. But we don’t believe that liberalism also means tolerance, to hear the other point of view no matter how repugnant that point of view might be. We are living in a funny world where my point of view is the most relevant and hence must be expressed, but anyone who disagrees with me, there’s a lynch mindset that goes after that. And, I feel, this cuts across the spectrum sadly. Whether the liberals are as intolerant of the non-liberal point of view and vice-versa. Fortunately or unfortunately, there are a lot more mechanisms today. Through social media, you can say anything and react and upload and make it available to millions of people, and there is this whole desire, now I call it the cricket-score syndrome, that how many more runs you can score. Everybody is being driven by that. How many followers I have on Twitter, Instagram, how many people read me, how many people like, so there is an incentive being built into making your position sharper because sharper positions cut through and get you noticed.

On freedom of the media and responding to trolling

As news people, every day, you apply your judgement on things. Every story is important to someone or the other, but you cannot carry every story. That’s what an editor does every day, you make a selection. And after that, within that list of stories, deciding what would be the order of priority, how you would treat that, and within each story, there are points of view, deciding which point of view to take. That is what you do every day even when running an entertainment network. But the question is, do you balance it or not? Are you driven by facts or only by momentary emotions? As long as it is based on a long-term social perspective. I’m a big believer that while freedom of media is paramount and essential to the foundation of a good society, media’s responsibility cannot be abandoned. In entertainment, you cannot say that in the name of creativity and freedom, I will show everything. All the same, you cannot say that just because you don’t like what I’m creating, I should be lynched.

On backlash and its potential impact on the box office

I don’t think there is a standard template but I can tell you about my own thumb rule, how I go about it. I’m very clear that at Star network, we’ve had our share of controversies, but doing content that in the larger social interest is harmful is not something we can be accused of. We won’t do a certain kind of content just to gain market share or grab eyeballs, because I genuinely believe that each society’s ability to deal with a certain kind of content is only limited in a point in time. It keeps evolving, and that’s why I am against a formal regulation because regulations are rigid and they do not evolve. But dynamically, we all have to judge the larger impact of what we are doing.

On whether the trolling of Karan Johar will affect the next season of Koffee With Karan

First of all, the next season of Koffee With Karan will be judged on when the next season should be done. And I don’t think this will be a factor, at least not in my mind. The trolling itself was unfortunate, I would like to say that the loss of any life is tragic. And the loss of a promising young life (Sushant Singh Rajput) is very, very tragic. But to play politics and to push personal agenda on the back of that is really, really repugnant. And, just because somebody’s life has been lost, no matter how tragic it is, but all those who are living do not become culprits just because of that.

On whether trash-talking in cricket is trickling down the system

These are young boys and girls, they play with passion, again it’s an individual judgement that the teams, coaches and tournaments, they need to put structures, and they need to put filters and guardrails around this, but those guardrails should not be calcified. We need it to be in tune with the times. They should keep evolving. It should not be racially or culturally insensitive, should not be making fun of people’s disabilities, but some amount of banter, even if it is provocative, is part of the fun.

On cricket’s emotional quotient and commentaries becoming bland

…Just imagine that if there is a very intense moment, a bowler has run and bowled a great ball and somebody hits it for a six, and if that bowler meekly just turns around and goes back, would the audience not suspect the match was fixed? It doesn’t even care that he gets hit for a six. So, where do you draw the line? It’s difficult to have objective parameters. But emotional reaction is a very important part of the sport and of the fans that love that sport. In fact, one of my problems is that commentaries, especially in cricket, have been too sanitised. And that is why a lot of fun has gone out of the matches. What we call colour, and I’m not saying colour in a flippant way, but a more well-rounded, lively description of the sport has gone away, so, through commentary we are trying to make it more transactionary: ‘he came forward, he hit it, took two runs, didn’t take two runs’. We keep talking about the life going out of cricket and it (things like T-20) just becoming too transactional, I think we are also responsible for that. And, we need to think, how do we create a well-rounded experience for people which goes beyond just the scores and the runs? And yet, it’s not socially detrimental.

On the two schools of commentary: Navjot Singh Sidhu and Richie Benaud

I would rather not comment on individual styles. They both have fans but do not forget there’s also a gap of 30-40 years between the two styles and schools of commentary. And the world has changed a great deal since then.

On the possibility of sports commentators being dropped because of public opinion

God, I’m sinking so deep in problems here, but I will dig my own grave a little bit more (laughs). I think there is a distinction that we need to make between cricket journalists and cricket commentators. You are a journalist, you are at liberty to say what you want to say, and your only discipline comes from the discipline your paper and your reader imposes on you. A commentator is not, in my view, a journalist. A commentator is part of the entire package to make the game more entertaining, more popular. And I routinely see now a tendency between commentators who make this mistake. You should not become a commentator, which is also happening a lot, because sports writers are just being commentators. And commentators should not become journalists. I have very clear views on that.

On how access as a currency of compliance is a dangerous sign

Let me just tell you a bit of the story behind Match Ka Mujrim, since the ghost still haunts me. That show came out of a certain challenge that we were facing. I used to be the editor and CEO of Star News that time, we had done some reportage which the cricket establishment and the mandarins who ruled it that time did not like. So, we were told that if you do not fall in line, we will not allow you to come to our press conference and events, we will not give you access. And access was the big deal. We all know that access is the currency around which a lot of arm-twisting happens in our world. And, hence I said, access is the biggest pressure to which we bow down, let’s just try doing something without access. So, I remember after a match in Bangalore, just across the road from the stadium, there was a public space, where we went and pitched our tent. And we said, okay, we don’t have access to the Man of the Match, but we have watched the match, there are two sets of people in every match, those who help you win the match are very important and they are discussed by the fans passionately, but even more passionately discussed are the ones who have cost the match, or who almost lost the match. So, we would focus only on them, because nobody wanted them. And, we didn’t get any players, so we just decided to bring some experts and created something very lively. So, I think, it has changed. In fact, this whole access factor is weighing so heavily on journalism today, especially in sports. It’s a matter of worry for me sometimes because as a journalist you should be able to write whatever you want and, by right, you should have access. Nobody does you a favour by giving you access. You get access on behalf of the people of this country, and your readers and viewers. To use access as a currency of compliance is really disgusting and it’s a dangerous sign.

On the changing role of broadcasters, from fly-on-the-wall to proactive

In fact, in my view, over the years, I feel that the role of the broadcaster in determining the nature of the content has got reduced. And, people talk about the BCCI having played a very regressive role in that, accused of containing the nature of the coverage, but I think it’s the same everywhere. And some places, it is much worse. So, without going into the specifics, I think as broadcasters, we often feel creatively, we are a creative company, the only thing we understand is how to make exciting content across genres: entertainment, sports, etc. And yet, you’d be shocked to see the kind of rigid framework in which sometimes people insist that we cooperate: ‘camera angle cannot move’, ‘why did you show this?’, etc. You cannot do that. Actually, the broadcaster is getting more and more marginalised. The only time the broadcaster has a say is when he is saying how much they are going to pay for it. But after that, it’s downhill, which is hurting the interest of cricket particularly.

On keeping the stump mic on for a richer experience

I think it does add a certain dimension to the experience of the fans. And we have to understand that, today, the matches are not really held for 30,000-50,000 people who are sitting in the stadium. The power of a sport comes from its streaming and its telecast, which is what takes it to tens of millions of people. The only way, the whole idea of a coverage, and the reason we spend so much money, technology and expertise in this is to replicate the experience. Ideally, everybody would like to sit next to the pitch, that’s my hypothesis. Because that’s where you get the best view and ambience from, but you can’t, so, you sit in the stadium, but you can’t be in the stadium, so you watch it on TV or Hotstar. And yet, we are under obligation to ensure that people get the most real feel, in that sense, a stump mic, or a helmet camera, and other devices, like slo-mo and ball-tracking, they are helpful. But you also need to do house training for everybody, so that there are no surprises, no shocks. Sometimes we expect a lot from our cricketers also. These are all really young boys and girls who have one great skill but they don’t have a degree in sociology, they are not trained diplomats. We expect them to say exactly the right words, to do the right thing. We want them to behave in the perfect manner even when their emotions are running really high. And what investment do we do in training them for that? So, I believe that if you train the people, if everybody is exposed to the consequences of what they should be mindful of, then all these innovations will only make the experience richer.

On whether cricket viewership will move from TV to digital platforms

I think in India, television has a long runway, it will still continue to go for a long time in my view. It is one of the few countries where still new TV homes are being added and we have about over a 100 million homes that do not have TV. Television is a great experience, it’s also a status symbol for a lot of people. When people come into affluence, one of the first things they want to buy is a TV. You should also understand that India is one of the cheapest markets to buy television. So, there is an economic case for that. And yet, the way the world is moving, in this country, we believe that in the next four-five years, there will be about 700-750 million handheld screens, and about 200-250 million TV screens. Clearly, handheld devices will become very important. Good thing is that a large part of the same consumer switches seamlessly between TV and digital. For us, it really doesn’t matter. Whether people are watching it on TV or whether on digital, for us, what matters is how much they are watching, and in that context, it’s been great that we’ve been able to offer them content on both TV and digital (Disney+Hotstar).

On when to expect the IPL

We all know that we are living through a perfect storm. I think the good news is that the BCCI is very keen to do something because they know that – both for the love of cricket and also for signalling to the country that life triumphs – it is important that people get the IPL experience and then there are other tournaments that are lined up. But we really don’t know when they will happen, because we don’t have a fix on the trajectory of the virus itself, so best-made plans can go awry at this time. Though we are keeping our powder dry, we are ready internally, we are discussing, planning, but we also don’t want the tournaments to be held until the atmosphere is reasonably safe.

On the possibility of paying more for digital broadcast rights

I believe that television is still very strong. When IPL happens, the power of the big screen is not going to go away. The whole idea of sitting somewhere with a group of people and having popcorn and chai and watching the match, that experience is very compelling. So, I don’t think television is going anywhere. Cricket is actually an advertiser-friendly sport and television lends itself to great brand advertising.


Aamir Khan, Actor

I’ve worked very closely with Uday when we were doing the TV show Satyamev Jayate. I found Uday to be an extremely sharp mind, who understands the macro and the micro. In fact, he was the one who came up with the title. While Star was going to be hosting the show, I also wanted it to air the show on Doordarshan, which is a competitive channel. I told him that in those regions where Star is not the leading channel, I’d like to give the show to his competitor channel which is leading in that language. It’s a very strange condition that I put in front of him and he did not hesitate. He’s someone who really sees beyond just the financial aspect of things.

To be totally transparent, I had also heard horror stories about Aamir. I was also told that Aamir just decides everything and it’s impossible to work with him. And I said how difficult it can be, if you’ve been a news editor, you’ve worked with some very difficult people. I said okay, we’ll try. And I have to say, one of my most satisfying and fulfilling experiences was that project. I am a big believer in regular entertainment, people have so much stress and drudgery in their life that they need to take into a make-believe world and that has its role. But when you’ve got their attention, I equally and firmly believe you should seed some serious and relevant messages, and that’s what we thought we could do with Satyamev Jayate. And Aamir turned out to be an extreme believer in the same agenda. This was 2011-12, it took a long time. Aamir takes a really long time to decide things. It took me more than two years to get him to do this.

Rahul Johri, BCCI CEO

What is the future of broadcasting, especially pay TV, and do you see digital subscription revenues overtaking pay TV?

Television has a future in this country. But one of the biggest challenges that it is facing is the whole pay ecosystem, and the way it has been devastated, or it has never been allowed to take off. I think somewhere there is a mindset in the country, in the policy establishment that they keep swinging between media is a dangerous business or a vice business. So somehow keep it suboptimal, and the pay system not taking off is one of the saddest things that could happen for the industry. And that is why we are not able to invest enough in content, that is why we are not able to create enough robust business models, and that’s why the range of content is not available. Most people don’t know how egregious are the controls on how you can sell your TV channels to the people, there is only a certain manner in which you can sell, even the discounts or incentives you can give to the distributors, all of that is rigorously regulated. Everyone thinks that sectors like banking and healthcare are regulated, I think television in this country is the most regulated sector. You can’t even change the logo of your channel without seeking permissions, you can’t change the name without seeking permissions. The result of which is that Pay TV really faces a huge challenge. Despite all the promise, I don’t believe that digital streaming services are anywhere at that scale where they can replace TV. So the trajectory is very good, they are very promising. But the government, society and creative community have to come together to take it to a level where you think it can go. Two years ago, pay TV looked really exciting and promising, but it hasn’t taken off because since then it has got no incentives. I hope the same will not happen with streaming.

Anirudh Chaudhary, former treasurer, BCCI

How do you prioritise the following this year: the Indian bilateral series, Indian Premier League, or the ICC T20 World? Does the delay in the decision by the ICC affect you? And how far ahead in time, do you think, is virtual reality or augmented reality in production in cricket?

We are not prioritising any of these at all, we’ll take whatever comes. Right now, the biggest challenge is that there is no clarity on when the tournaments will be held. And I totally understand that we’re in so many variables, the borders are closed, travel is so difficult, people can’t move, quarantine is required, fear of the pandemic, all of that makes it difficult, but for us there is a real challenge. So for instance, with ICC T20 tournament, not having clarity, doesn’t help. In case of IPL also, we know that the BCCI is keen to get it back but they are in no position to tell us. We understand these are exceptional circumstances and everybody’s response is only suboptimal. We have learnt to be patient. One thing I do know is that our commitment to cricket is deeper than anybody else. But I think technology-wise, this is a huge opportunity. The world is ready for it. Somewhere, we were all victims of our muscle memory. Now with this disruption, there is pressure on everyone to innovate. You will see a lot of innovation and experiments using technology and that will be brilliant for the sport and the fans.

Abhinav Bindra, Olympic Shooting Champion

To what extent would COVID-19 accelerate fragmentation of sports content, production and consumption? What’s the effect of broadcast rise on linear television, since ad sales is the only major income for linear TV?

VVS Laxman, Former India Cricketer

The situation the whole world is facing with the pandemic, and live sports action also has been affected tremendously. How can we prepare to tackle this? What are we going to do when things get back to normal?

I think the fragmentation is happening, but I like to see this as segmentation. The multiple channels that are getting created, whether digital or TV, each one is making the reach of the sport bigger. That is a great development. I don’t think we should worry about it, in the short term might look like audiences are getting fragmented and destinations are not getting built, but over a period of time, these are all multipliers for delivering the content to a larger universe of fans. Financially, this year looks like a complete disaster. And in the case of cricket, the real issue is that 70-75 percent of the total earning, even for global tournaments, comes from India. So the Indian economy is the driver of cricket. That is going to be impacted and naturally, for all the other sports the monetisation model is totally devastated. But my only belief is that this is temporary, for a year or two. As we go along, the economy will improve and the advertisers and those sponsors who put money behind sports would come back. As soon as we can create a reasonably safe bubble for bringing the live sports back, that’s the most important thing.

Anil Kumble, Former India Cricketer

Recently, we have seen a lot of people watching live sports on their mobile apps like Hotstar. What would be the next wave in broadcast or in viewership experience in the coming decade?

The pandemic, and as ironic as it may sound, is actually a great opportunity. Every sport was first watched by people who gathered on the ground, and then stadiums came, so that more people could watch, and then radio commentary and television broadcast, each of these has made the sport bigger and I believe that even if people are not in the stadiums today, sooner or later, they will start going back to the stadium, but in the meantime, this whole disruption is a huge opportunity for us to use technology to take sports to a much larger audience and make it even bigger than it has been. Sports coverage has been getting somewhat typecast and this kind of disruption is actually an opportunity to innovate.

Sanjiv Mehta, CEO & MD, Hindustan Unilever Limited

With spectator sport taking a bit of a backseat, how do you see the future? How do you plan to take Hotstar, your OTT platform, further and higher?

If we use the Covid disruption as an opportunity to take sports to more people and create a fuller, richer and more fleshed-out experience for people who are not in the stadium, then the sports can get bigger, people will spend more time, watch it more and the emotional intensity of the fans will be even greater with fair return.

Nandan Nilekani, Non-Executive Chairman, Infosys

The startup he has done by creating a whole new tournament around kabbadi and telecasting it, and I’ve seen this in so many places, where watching kabbadi has become so popular.

Rishank Devadiga, Pro Kabbadi player

Has there been some planning for the Pro Kabbadi season this year? Will there be any restrictions or precautions?

Kabbadi is a very close contact sport, and we have to be extremely careful as and when we do kabbadi because we have to create a safe bubble. Otherwise, it’s going to be risky, the first and foremost we have to worry about the safety of our players, and all the people who are participating in the tournament, whether it is the officials, support staff, and even our own broadcast and media teams. So, we are working on plans and taking inputs from everywhere in the world, and we would like to assure everyone that we will not do a tournament until we are absolutely sure.

Gautam Gambhir, Former India Cricketer, Lok Sabha MP

Do you have any plans to promote hockey, which is a national sport?

Interestingly, the first league that I got associated with, under my watch, was the hockey league, and we’ve been doing that now for eight-nine years. And we believe that we’ve served the cause of hockey well but you have to realise that whatever sport league we get involved with, we can only do as much as there is happening on the ground. If there is not a groundswell of excitement around the sport, it’s tough for us to be able to do everything that we’ve done. So, we can do a lot, but only when there is a real potential. Hockey has a real potential, and that’s why we are involved with it and I think Indian hockey is looking better today than it was 10 years ago.

Uday Kotak, MD, Kotak Mahindra Bank

Where do you see the future of entertainment and sports in the new digital world post-Covid?

Mahesh Bhatt, Filmmaker

What are the radical changes that are afoot in our industry in the sector of content distribution, exhibition production and audience ownership? What will each contribute to this Renaissance that I fantasise about?

There is going to be a renaissance because the more channels of reaching the consumer that we find, the richer the health of the industry will be. The industry begins to choke when the supply lines are choked. In this country, the ratio of theatres to population is one of the most adverse in the whole world, and that’s not going to change given the challenge of building a new theatre. So if you do not use technology to create a bigger market and bigger universe of consumption, that Renaissance is not going to take place.

Anant Nath, Editor, The Caravan

How reflective is TV programming of the societal issues that we the people are marred with, including the faultlines of identity, such as class, caste, ethnicity and race?

First of all, I do struggle with labelling the entire Indian society as a homogeneous entity, there is no such thing as an Indian society. There are multiple layers and deeply nuanced structures, along both the axis, the geographical as well as the socioeconomic hierarchies. And the challenge of doing programming in a country like India, especially on mass media like television, is that you are forced to look at a common denominator, because otherwise you are at risk of losing attention. And so when you do that, there are some key issues that everybody takes. Compared to television in many other countries, entertainment television in India is far more progressive and reflective of the emerging aspirations of society, or at least a segment of the society, but it’s tough to capture all of them all the time.

Ramit Bhatnagar, COO MJ Global & Rajesh Mehta, Founder, Entry-India

Do you see this trend lasting for a long time where mainstream cinema movies release on OTT platforms?

I don’t think it’s a substitutive trend, it’s one more stream for releasing cinema. And I think one of the best things that has happened, we just announced yesterday that we would premiere seven films on Disney+Hotstar in the next two months, and some of them are really big films. We’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time, because according to data, most people go to theatres twice a year, and Indian film industry is beginning to choke because there are not enough release windows. And there is an appetite for films. But there are not enough films that can be released because they’re only 52 weeks in the year there are only 52 Fridays. You will be surprised to know that big Fridays, two years from now, are already taken. So direct to digital releases or premieres is actually a great initiative.

Shyam Bagri, Founder, Bagrry’s

How can we use the OTT platform for advertising?

On Disney+Hotstar, for instance, we have complete ability to customise and deliver your message to exactly the target audiences and in the parts of the country that you want the message to go, even in a city we can target it to your specific requirements. So, it’s a lot more friendly and effective to use this platform.

Karan Johar, Filmmaker

How do you manage to maintain social distance from the entertainment and sports fraternity, and yet engage with them professionally with ease?

I’m not a product of this industry. I came through news and now I see this as a job. I have deepest respect for everybody that I deal with, but in order to maintain objectivity and take the right creative and business decisions, it’s important to maintain some amount of distance. I learned this as a news editor, where my first editor had taught me that if you’re going and having a drink with the same person in the evening, who you were covering during the day, there’s always going to be a problem. And I thought it keeps life uncomplicated. When I finish my work I come home, spend time with my family, play with my dog and that keeps life simple.

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