In 1993, Rupert Murdoch bought Asian satellite TV service Star TV, the first step in his quest to become a global-media mogul. Star had tried to create pan-Asian channels, but that ambition was floundering when Murdoch swooped in and bought it. To celebrate the acquisition, Murdoch set off on a triumphant Asian tour. One of his stops was Delhi, where I interviewed him about his plans for India.
The whole idea behind Star TV was flawed, Murdoch told me. It was wrong to believe that a viewer in Beijing would want to watch the same channel as a viewer in Bombay. So far, so good. What did Murdoch think that viewers in Bombay really wanted to watch? That was easy, he replied. People wanted to watch American shows like Baywatch, but they wanted to watch them in their own languages. The new Star TV would split its satellite beams and focus on local languages. Baywatch would be dubbed into Hindi for Indian viewers, and mainland China would get a Mandarin-language service.