Hong Kong – The confirmed departure of STAR chief operating officer Laureen Ong is believed to be just the start of a wider restructure and realignment being considered by parent NewsCorp. Rumours of Ong’s imminent departure had been circulating for at least two weeks, before an internal e-mail sent by Ong was construed by many as a farewell. July 14 saw STAR confirm the COO’s mid-August departure, explaining that the operational units under Ong will now report directly to STAR chief executive officer Paul Aiello. On the wider implications of Ong’s exit, official statement says, “STAR is undertaking a business and effectiveness review with the aim of creating optimal structure to support continued growth and seize significant opportunities in the region. The review is expected to take a number of months and will be communicated to colleagues and partners after conclusions have been reached.” It is understood that NewsCorp has been conducting an internal review of, not just STAR Group, but its entire operations in the region. Fox International Channels Asia’s president Ward Platt has been linked to the internal review but spokesperson would only confirm that a number of possibilities were under consideration, including increased localization in certain markets, and some consolidation or integration with FIC within the region. Back in January 2009, Television Asia Plus reported that STAR India might no longer report into the region, but directly to NewsCorp. With India accounting for over 70 percent of STAR’s revenues in the region, it was seen that, were India to report to London rather than Hong Kong, the rest of the region would be left weakened and vulnerable. As to the potential integration of some of STAR’s channel brands with FIC brands, Fox is tipped to emerge dominant. Interestingly as long ago as Q3 2008, FIC was ramping up its operations in the region – hiring around 18 staff at the Hong Kong premises it shares with STAR – at a time when most other networks were scaling back.
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