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21st Century Fox outlook on Star bullish despite $30m DeMon hit

MUMBAI: Though India’s currency demonetisation late last year with ripple effects of currency shortage spilling over in 2017 hit businesses all round, including the likes of Star, its parent 21 Century Fox has pinned high hopes on the OTT platform Hotstar and the overall ability of Star to overcome short-term hiccups because of market dominance.

Terming the demonisation move of PM Modi-led government in New Delhi a “crazy speed bump” that hit businesses all round, 21st Century Fox  CFO John Nallen, in a conversation with investment analysts at a conference last month, admitted that Star too got “affected” from last quarter 2016 to first quarter 2017 calendar year. He revealed at that time that Star India took a hit of almost $30 million, and the company expects that things would start looking up mid-March 2017 onwards.

According to Nallen, India would prove to be a major revenue earner for Star and Hotstar in the long term.

Pointing out that, in the last two years, 20 million TV households were added to the eco-system, which brought the total number of TV households to 180 million (a recent BARC broadcast survey put the total number of Indian TV HHs at 183 million with rural leading the growth), Nallen said, “We are in the middle of a five-year cycle where pay TV households doubled and advertising nearly doubled during that period of time...so when advertising lifts, we get a little more of what the advertising lift and it is because of the company's (Star) market share and dominance in the market.”

Nallen was also confident that Star, with its bouquet of regional and sports channels delivered via cable and satellite and complimented by OTT platform Hotstar, will continue to be the jewel in the News Corp crown (a description of Star by 21st Century Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch).

“The plans of Star TV are still intact. I am assuming that there is no geo-political issue(s) and no economic disruptions…that no one wakes up with some other rule in India that will disrupt the business,” the seasoned CFO observed, adding that Star an important clog in Murdoch’s media empire as it was one of the “biggest growth driver(s)” and the objectives and targets with which the business was set up and operationalised in India were achievable.

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