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BW Businessworld

Battle For Eyeballs

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It was star plus in the early 90s that ended the drought in entertainment on Indian TV. Before its entry, the best DD could do was the once-a-week Chitrahaar and the weekend Hindi/vernacular movie. With the Star bouquet on cable TV came soaps such as The Bold And The Beautiful and Santa Barbara. The latest in music videos on MTV. And, in a first for Indian viewers, English movies, courtesy Star Movies. Evenings were never the same!

Today, in the spoilt-for-choice world of Indian TV, Star continues to shine bright. It is the country’s largest media and entertainment company, with a turnover of $1.2 billion in FY 2014. But Star India CEO Uday Shankar is not one to rest on his laurels. He believes the key to garnering ever more eyeballs is through sports programming. Which is why despite its dominance in Hindi general entertainment, he has chosen to pump in Rs 20,000 crore over the next few years into sports content — cricket, kabaddi, soccer, badminton, hockey and tennis. Will the gamble pay off for Shankar and his team at Star India or will they be left licking their wounds? Read senior associate editor Gurbir Singh’s take on the media behemoth’s strategy.

This issue, we also take a long and hard look at how the government resorts to invoking the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) — a law meant to check terrorism funding and money laundering — to curb dissent from civil society. The frequent infractions by the government are leading to foreign funding to many an NGO drying up. Given that path-breaking legislations such as RTI and NREGA owe their existence to the work of civil society, not to speak of countless causes they champion and support, one wonders whether the arbitrary use of FCRA will spell the end of democracy as we know it. Senior editor Abraham C. Mathews attempts to find some method to the madness.

How far can an individual go in the pursuit of his ambitions? In the case of N. Srinivasan, very far. If the buzz is anything to go by, the India Cements head and owner of IPL team Chennai Super Kings (CSK) is on the hunt for a buyer to offload his franchise. While this will help resolve the issue of his conflict of interest and allow him to contest the BCCI elections, will it be in either India Cements’ or CSK’s interest to dump a team at short notice, and at a time when its reputation is in tatters? Shouldn’t the independent directors on the India Cements board put the company’s interests first and block the sale?.

All this and more, plus new columns, in this edition of BW | Businessworld.

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 23-02-2015)