Company spends $230 million in tech group

Disney is spending $230 million to increase its investment in leading Indian entertainment group UTV Software Communications.

The Mouse House will pay $200 million to up its stake in UTV from 14% to 32%; a further $30 million will buy a 15% stake in UTV Global Broadcasting, a subsidiary that controls new TV channels, including youth-oriented Bindass and its spinoff nets.

UTV boss Ronnie Screwvala is increasing his stake to a matching 32%.

Disney took its initial stake in the group in 2006, when it bought UTV’s kids channel Hungama.

“We are pleased with our initial investment in UTV, which has strong local brands and media properties that provide complementary growth platforms to Disney’s existing branded efforts,” said Walt Disney Intl. chairman Andy Bird.

“This partnership across movies, TV content, interactive games and broadcasting endorses our leadership in India and Southeast Asia,” Screwvala said.

Disney had a toehold in India with the ESPN-Star Sports channel and set up an office in Mumbai in 2004. Since then, it has taken control of Hungama, and last year moved into local movies through an animation alliance with Yash Raj Studios.

Disney India employs some 185 on a permanent basis, and anticipates accelerated growth across media networks, consumer products and studio businesses.

Other Hollywood congloms have recently been expanding their operations in India. NBC Universal last month spent $150 million to buy a 26% stake in NDTV (Daily Variety, Jan 24), while Viacom merged most of its Indian businesses with the TV18 group to form Viacom 18. And earlier this month global financier George Soros agreed to pay $100 million for a 3% stake in privately held Reliance Communications.

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