Reliance Disney sign binding pact to combine media businesses in India

In a significant move poised to reshape the landscape of the Indian media industry, Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL), Viacom 18 Media Private Ltd., and The Walt Disney Company have reached a conclusive agreement to bring their media businesses together under one umbrella in India. Viacom18, under the majority ownership of RIL’s TV18 Broadcast, will be merged with Star India Private Ltd., in a strategic accord that promises to catapult the joint venture to the forefront of Indian entertainment and sports broadcasting.

This pioneering joint venture will see an investment of a substantial ₹11,500 crore by RIL at its closing to support an ambitious growth strategy that is set to redefine the industry. The deal, which is currently priced at ₹70,352 crore post-money, exclusive of synergies, will result in a power structure wherein RIL will control the JV with a 16.34% stake, Viacom18 holding 46.82%, and Disney owning the remaining 36.84%.

According to a joint statement issued by the involved parties, the transaction is subject to customary regulatory and third-party approvals. Moreover, Disney is contemplating contributing additional media assets to the joint venture. The finalization of the deal is anticipated to occur between the last quarter of 2024 and the first quarter of 2025.

Nita Mukesh Ambani is poised to take the helm as the chairperson of the joint venture, while media veteran Uday Shankar, noted for his tenure as the former President of Walt Disney Asia Pacific, will assume the role of Vice Chairperson. Shankar will be responsible for providing strategic direction and mentorship to the joint entity.

The joint venture promises to be a juggernaut in the Indian television and digital streaming domains. It will encapsulate a host of media assets across the entertainment spectrum, including popular channels such as Colors, StarPlus, and StarGOLD, as well as sports giants Star Sports and Sports18. It will also provide coverage of highly-anticipated television and digital events, which will be made accessible through renowned platforms like JioCinema and Hotstar.

With a staggering viewership base of over 750 million across India, the joint venture is not just catering to the domestic market but also looking to connect with the extensive Indian diaspora worldwide. The sheer scale of this collaborative effort indicates a major overhaul in terms of how entertainment and sports content will be delivered and consumed both within the country and globally.

Mukesh D. Ambani, CMD of RIL, emphasized the groundbreaking nature of this agreement, describing it as a “landmark agreement that heralds a new era in the Indian entertainment industry.” Echoing this sentiment, Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, expressed excitement about the substantial opportunities present in what is regarded as the world’s most populous market—a place where the joint venture could amplify long-term corporate value.

Uday Shankar, now Co-founder of Bodhi Tree Systems, reflected on the expansion of the partnership with Reliance, expressing privilege at being able to now include Disney in their business equation—a company that is a global media and entertainment heavyweight.

In tandem with increasing digitization and the insatiable appetite for content among Indian audiences, this joint venture marks an essential milestone. It symbolizes the convergence of domestic and international media powerhouses to create a dynamic content ecosystem that will likely set a precedent for future media conglomerations, both in India and beyond. As the Indian entertainment landscape evolves, this venture stands at the cusp of driving innovation, streamlining content delivery, and enlarging the scope of opportunities for creators, marketers, and consumers alike.

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