Television

K Madhavan: From God’s own country to leading Walt Disney’s Indian mousehouse

As Disney Star India boss, the shy, unassuming K. Madhavan has a larger canvas on which to paint.

https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/smartcrop_800x800/public/images/tv-images/2021/04/16/q.jpg?itok=3Z3-7MyI

MUMBAI: When The Walt Disney Co international operations and direct-to-consumer chairman Rebecca Campbell was scouting for an executive to fill the big shoes of former Star India, Disney India and APAC head Uday Shankar, she did not have to look far. Though the announcement took some time a-coming, K Madhavan, country manager of Star & Disney India, was the obvious choice. As the overseer of the media conglomerate’s television and studios business in India, Madhavan had worked closely with Uday, until the latter departed in late 2020 to concentrate on an entrepreneurial venture with his former boss James Murdoch.

An unassuming executive from Kerala, K Madhavan is known to be a hard core numbers man with an extremely razor sharp financial mind. He did well in academia as well; he holds a post graduate degree in commerce, and is a certified associate of the Indian Institute of Bankers. He cut his teeth as an investment banker, when he was roped in as a director to help turn around ailing Malayalam network Asianet in 1999. Within a year, he fortified his position and was elevated to MD & CEO of Asianet Communications.

His keen understanding of what Malayalam viewers want to watch facilitated the growth of Asianet’s viewership and made it the favourite of those who live in God’s own country. The network was turned around and it soon became a dominant player in Kerala. He did this even as ownership of the network changed hands, more than once – from promoter Reji Menon to the-then BPL and now BJP top shot and venture financier Rajeev Chandrasekhar. In fact, K Madhavan, ended up owning a tidy piece of it as well, as he grew the network’s footprint in Kannada in concert with Chandrashekar as chairman.  

Until, of course, it landed in the hands of News Corp supremo Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV in 2008. Star acquired a majority stake in Asianet’s general entertainment channels (separated from the news business) for a handsome $235 million and an assumption of $20 million in debt. Madhavan pocketed a neat sum for his efforts even as he was appointed as Star India’s south head in 2009.

From thereon, there was no looking back. When Star India took control of Asianet, its portfolio consisted of Asianet and Asianet Plus (Malayalam GECs), Asianet Suvarna (a Kannada GEC) and Telugu channel Sitara. To that was added Star Vijay from the Star India network. Several other channels followed: Asianet Movies, Star Maa (through an acquisition of MAA Television network). Today, it has more than 13 pure play southern language channels, covering general entertainment, movies, in Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu. Of course, Star India itself has many other regional language channels covering Marathi and Bengali. At the helm of this dizzying growth was Madhavan with Uday, and the Murdochs giving him total freedom. Observers today value the southern language business of Star at around $3 billion (valued at $1.33 billion in 2013 at the time of its acquisition by Star).

When The Walt Disney Co acquired Twenty First Century Fox a couple of years ago for a massive $72 billion, along with it came all of its Indian assets including the southern language business. Uday, used to working in the maverick style of the Murdochs, quickly had K Madhavan hoicked as country manager of Star & Disney India, leading the media conglomerate’s television and studios business, while he was bumped upstairs to look after the APAC business and Hotstar directly.

When Uday decided to turn entrepreneur in 2020, day to day operations were left in the hands of K Madhavan, who worked closely with Campbell at the worst of times when the media and entertainment industry – and  Star and Disney India – had to face lockdowns courtesy the pandemic and an acceleration towards digital video consumption. The way he steered the company impressed the Disney headquarters in Burbank.

“A skilled leader with an extensive background in media, KM has taken our vast Star networks and local content production businesses to new heights,” said Campbell on his elevation. “I have seen first-hand how he has adeptly managed our India business, which has been and will continue to be critical to our global and regional strategy.”

With the leadership issue for Star India and Disney India settled, it should lead to some clarity on the road ahead for the company which did an estimated top line in excess of $1.7 billion last year. K Madhavan will now be able to steer the network and make it future ready in a country where many homes have antiquated CRT TV sets, many have yet to buy one, while a small fraction have high-end 4K sets even as some are graduating to HD, and the young are increasingly consuming video content on their handsets.

Like Uday, he has the respect and attention of Burbank, Disney's and Star India's senior leadership who hold his strategic decision making and vision for the group in high regard. Like Uday, he has an entrepreneural streak, combined with a strong systems approach which should bode well for him in an organisation which thrives because of its processes-driven environment. And of course his deep understanding of what the Indian video viewing consumer wants to watch. His success at Asianet bears testimony to that. The only difference: the canvas is larger and wider now and covers a swathe of demographics, languages and platforms, right from TV to movies to digital.

To his advantage, K Madhavan has the track record and the wherewithal to take the right steps. After all, not every executive can make the transition from heading a small network in God’s own country to leading India’s largest media and entertainment network.

Latest Reads

https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2021/07/31/photogrid_plus_1627727872873.jpg?itok=Kzhr4-eg
ABP Group ropes in 82.5 Communications for launch of ABP Desam

Mumbai: ABP Group has partnered with 82.5 Communications for the launch of its regional news platform ABP Desam in two Indian states - Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The agency's Bengaluru office will handle the business. The launch campaign of ABP Desam is based on the central insight that...

Television TV Channels News Broadcasting
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2021/07/31/nickelodeon.jpg?itok=rw3gE8nC
Nickelodeon to launch month-long campaign celebrating friendship day

Mumbai: Kids entertainment channel Nickelodeon has come up with an initiative #ToastYourDost to celebrate Friendship Day. Represented by Nick toons, the campaign will give its young viewers a chance to celebrate the entire month of August as an ode to friendship with banter between friends, and a...

Television TV Channels Kids
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2021/07/31/zee.jpg?itok=FWyLsL1X
Zee Media Corp revenue rises 28.8 % to Rs 170 crore in Q1

Zee Media Corporation's operational revenue was up 28.8 per cent to Rs 170.18 crore for the quarter ended in June 2021 as against Rs 132.14 crore in the corresponding period of the previous fiscal.

Television TV Channels News Broadcasting
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2021/07/30/indvssri.jpg?itok=lin_qEWU
Team India gets a boost of confidence after easy ODI win

The Indian cricket team gets a boost of confidence after winning with seven wickets with 13 overs to spare in their first match against Sri Lanka on 18 July at the R Premadasa Stadium. Shikhar Dhawan’s esteem resonates with the rest of the squad, even declaring that they have a great chance at...

Television TV Channels Sports
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2021/07/30/zee.jpg?itok=UZx2JzD0
ZEE TV announces launch of 'Zee Comedy Show'

Mumbai: ZEE TV on Friday announced the launch of its brand new reality show called ‘Zee Comedy Show’. Premiering on 31 July, the show will be aired every Saturday & Sunday at 10 pm. The show will feature some of the country’s best comedians and artists such as Ali Asgar, Chitrashi Rawat, Punit...

Television TV Channels Movie Channels
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2021/07/30/photogrid_plus_1627628345065.jpg?itok=igmQSLZ4
Times Now Navbharat HD all set to launch on 1 Aug

Mumbai: Times Network's Hindi news channel - Times Now Navabharat HD is all set to launch on 1 August. With its positioning ‘Ab Badlega Bharat, Banega Navbharat’, the channel will attempt to be the new voice propelling change through an inclusive movement for a new India, and champion a unique...

Television TV Channels News Broadcasting
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2021/07/30/photogrid_plus_1627625457473.jpg?itok=luMfhhTV
ABP Network launches Telugu digital platform ‘ABP Desam’

Mumbai: ABP Network has forayed into the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana market with the launch of its new digital platform, ABP Desam. It is the eighth regional language digital portal from the house of ABP Network. With this new offering, the media conglomerate aims to strengthen its push for local...

Television TV Channels News Broadcasting
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2021/07/29/epic.jpg?itok=ZUjlxmtk
Bomanbridge Media strikes global distribution partnership with IN10 Media Network

Mumbai : Singapore-based content distribution and production company Bomanbridge Media has signed a global distribution partnership with the Indian infotainment channel EPIC, from the house of the IN10 Media Network which has businesses in broadcast, digital, and production under its umbrella.

Television TV Channels News Broadcasting
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2021/07/29/kanni.jpg?itok=RErRD6aC
Colors Tamil announces new comedy show with Robo Shankar

Mumbai: Regional GEC Colors Tamil, on Wednesday, announced the launch of a new spoof comedy, 'Kanni Theevu Ullasa Ulagam 2.0'. The one-hour show premieres on 1 August, Sunday, at 7 pm.

Television TV Channels Regional

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories

* indicates required