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Disney Plus Hotstar appoints former Googler as president

Quinton de Kock of the Mumbai Indians bats during the Indian Premier League Final match between the the Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings at Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium on May 12, 2019 in Hyderabad, India. (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

The Walt Disney Company’s Indian streaming platform Disney Plus Hotstar has appointed former Google executive Sunil Rayan as president and head.

Rayan will report to Uday Shankar, president of The Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific and chairman of Star and Disney India. Shankar had been been leading Disney Plus Hotstar since Ajit Mohan left to lead Facebook’s operations in India in 2018.

Rayan has a technology background, including roles at McKinsey and IBM, before spending eight years at Google in California where he was general manager and managing director, Cloud for Games.

Shankar said: “Five years ago, we set out to disrupt the way India consumed content and that mission has turned out to be totally revolutionary. Sunil is an exciting talent with global accomplishments. We are on a mission to create the country’s largest and most advanced platform for curated content, and Sunil is just the right person to drive that ambition.”

Disney Plus Hotstar is a merger of the global OTT platform Disney Plus and the highly successful Indian OTT platform Hotstar. It married the American entertainment giant’s globally-popular film and series content with Hotstar’s locally-produced entertainment content and extensive sports library.

The merged service launched earlier this year, although plans to launch alongside the Indian Premier League cricket season were scotched by Covid-19. Disney has the rights for the IPL in India via its Star India pay-television platform.

Rayan’s appointment is the latest in a series of major managerial changes made by The Walt Disney Company in India as it integrates Star India. It acquired the Indian media business as part of its acquisition of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox last year. In other moves in the last year, Sanjay Gupta left as managing director of Star India to become Google’s country manager for India, and K Madhavan was appointed country manager of Disney’s television business in India.

Disney is rolling out Disney Plus in markets around the world. It launched initially in the US, Canada and the Netherlands in November last year. It launched in multiple markets in Western Europe earlier this year. It is also expected to launch in Southeast Asia this year.

Disney last week posted several job advertisements for roles at Disney Plus based in Singapore, prompting speculation in local media that the Southeast Asian launch was moving closer.

Earlier this month, several Disney entertainment channels disappeared from Singapore’s two main pay-television platforms, Singtel and Starhub, as carriage agreements expired without new ones being agreed. The parties have been reported to be still in talks to secure new deals. Singtel and Starhub’s carriage agreements for Disney’s Fox-branded channels, including the Fox Sports channels, are also expiring soon and are the subject of ongoing renewal talks.