Facebook underlines Indian ambitions in recruiting Hotstar chief
Facebook India, an increasingly important regional arm of the social media giant, has appointed Ajit Mohan from Hotstar, the video streaming platform of broadcaster Star India, to be its new managing director.
In the new role, which comes with a vice-president position, Mohan will direct Facebook’s strategy in India, its largest market in terms of number of users, and oversee a senior leadership team focused on strengthening relationships with people, businesses and government bodies in India.
He is due to start at the company early next year.
Mohan has been chief executive of Hotstar since April 2016, directing a service which complements Star’s popular entertainment and sports television channels. His previous employers include management and consulting firm McKinsey & Company in New York.
Star, which is owned by 21st Century Fox, drew 700 million individual viewers across all platforms for its coverage of the Indian Premier League, the high-profile Twenty20 cricket competition this year, with Hotstar attracting 200 million alone.
Facebook has been stepping up its involvement in sport, notably in India, last month concluding a three-year deal with Spanish soccer’s LaLiga to stream matches across the subcontinent.
Although worth less than €20 million ($23.5 million), that agreement demonstrated Facebook’s continued ambitions in India after it missed out on the domestic digital rights to the IPL in a money-spinning auction last year.
Facebook was the next highest bidder behind Star’s catch-all bid for IPL rights of Rs163.5 billion ($2.5 billion) over five years, with the social media site offering Rs39 billion.
In a statement, David Fischer, Facebook’s vice-president of business and marketing partnerships, said: “India is one of the largest and most strategically important countries for Facebook. As we think about what it will take to achieve our mission of bringing people together and building community, we know that investment in India is critical. Ajit’s depth of experience will help us to continue to have a positive impact in India across communities, organisations, businesses and with policy makers.”
Mohan added: “I am delighted to take on the mantle of shaping Facebook’s charter in India. It is a unique opportunity to shape the agenda of a company that has brought the world closer together in one of the most exciting markets in the world. I look forward to championing India in Facebook and working with stakeholders across the spectrum to help build deep and meaningful communities across the country.”
Earlier this year, Facebook appointed Peter Hutton, who has considerable experience of the Indian sports media market, from Eurosport, to be its head of global live sports programming, as part of a recruitment drive as it targeted more rights internationally.
In addition to landing the LaLiga rights in India, it recently concluded a three-year deal to become the exclusive free-to-air home in Spanish-speaking Latin America of European soccer’s Uefa Champions League.
Facebook has also bought a package of Thursday evening Copa Libertadores rights in Brazil from 2019 onwards and Premier League rights in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam (from 2019-20 to 2021-22).