Troubled times ahead for media outlets as ad sales will fall: Uday Shankar

The Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific Chairman and Chairman of Star & Disney India Uday Shankar is foreseeing troubled times head for media outlets as ad spent will fall over due to the COVID-19 impact on the economy.

Advertising spends will be impacted “severely” in April and May, and the next few months will be “troubling” for media outlets dependent on it as a revenue stream, Uday Shankar, the chairman of Star and Disney India, said.

Star India, which announced an upgrade of its over-the-top platform to ‘Disney+Hotstar’ to bring on board the American media giant parent’s content, also feels the ongoing tough times will help drive “premiumisation” in the industry where users pay for the content.

The country is under a three-week lockdown to combat the Covid-19 pandemic which has chilled virtually all economic activity, and led to massive aid packages being announced.

Shankar said print and radio industry depend the most on advertising revenues for sustenance, while television and streaming companies also have significant reliance on this revenue stream.

“Advertising… we see April, May will be very, very severely impacted. There will be challenges,” said Uday Shankar.

When asked about how his network is planning for the impact, he said it is still early days and premature to guess as we do not know when production activities will resume, growth will recover and consumption will start going up.

“Suffice to say that the next few months look troubling for all advertising driven media,” he added.

Asked about the fate of the cricket league IPL, probably his biggest bet in India, Shankar said he would want the league to happen this season but added that at present, health and safety of Indians is the biggest concern.

He said many global sporting events like the French Open and Olympics have been impacted in the current times.

However, he opined that in tough times like these, premium services will have a higher liking among the audiences as they become more discerning of spends.

“We believe that finally, high quality products will survive because people will like them, consume them and patronise them,” he said.

The company on Tuesday announced that ‘Disney+Hotstar’ will be available from April 3 in two packs.

The regional pack will be priced at ₹399 a year, while the premium one which entails delivery of entire suite of content from Disney will come at ₹1,499 a year, he said.