Disney merges Star India into Reliance Industries' Viacom 18

Some of Viacom18's assets
Some of Viacom18's assets

Reliance Industries said its unit Viacom 18 will absorb Star India, one of India's earliest private sector broadcasters, originally owned by Rupert Murdoch and currently owned by The Walt Disney Company of the US. Viacom18 is, in turn, a joint venture controlled by Reliance.

Reliance Industries will have control over the merged entity, said Reliance. Digital assets, such as Hotstar and JioCinema, are part of the transaction.

The merger will create the biggest media entity in India, with ownership by Reliance Industries, Disney (direct holding) and others.

The merged entity will have a 16.34% direct stake by RIL, 46.82% by Viacom18 and 36.84% by Disney.

To ensure this shareholding, RIL will infuse Rs 11,500 crore ($ 1.4 billion) into the new entity as part of the transaction.

The transaction values the JV at Rs 70,352 crore ($8.5 billion).

Disney may also contribute certain additional media assets to the JV, subject to regulatory and third-party approvals, the companies said.

Nita Ambani will be the chairperson of the JV, with former Star CEO Uday Shankar as Vice Chairperson. 

"The JV will be one of the leading TV and digital streaming platforms for entertainment and sports content in India, bringing together iconic media assets across entertainment (e.g. Colors, StarPlus, StarGOLD) and sports (e.g. Star Sports and Sports18) including access to highly anticipated events across television and digital platforms through JioCinema and Hotstar. The JV will have over 750 million viewers across India and will also cater to the Indian diaspora across the world," the companies said.

The JV will seek to lead the digital transformation of the media and entertainment industry in India and offer consumers high-quality and comprehensive content offerings anytime and anywhere, it added.

"The combination of the media expertise, cutting-edge technology and diverse content libraries of Viacom18 and Star India will allow the JV to offer more appealing domestic and global entertainment content and sports livestreaming services, while delivering an innovative and convenient digital entertainment experience at affordable prices. With the addition of Disney’s acclaimed films and shows to Viacom18’s renowned productions and sports offerings, the JV will offer a compelling, accessible and novel digital-focused entertainment experience to people in India and the Indian diaspora globally."

The JV will also be granted exclusive rights to distribute Disney films and productions in India, with a license to more than 30,000 Disney content assets.

“India is the world’s most populous market, and we are excited for the opportunities that this joint venture will provide to create long-term value for the company," said Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company.

The transaction is subject to regulatory, shareholder and other customary approvals and is expected to be completed in the last quarter of Calendar Year 2024 or first quarter of Calendar Year 2025.

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The New Indian Express