Petroleum and retail billionaire Mukesh Ambani is continuing his expansion into India’s entertainment sector through his Reliance Industries group, acquiring controlling stakes in leading digital cable television and broadband players Hathway Cable and Datacom, and Den Networks.
Reliance is investing $400 million to take a 51% stake in Hathway, and $312 million for a 66% stake in Den. The deals will give Reliance access to 24 million homes. Reliance’s existing Jio GigaFiber television and broadband service has plans to reach 50 million homes spread over 1,100 Indian cities.
Ambani already owns a controlling stake in the Network 18 group that operates several television channels and a film studio as a joint venture with Viacom. Reliance Industries also has a 5% stake in Bollywood studio Eros International and a 25% stake in production firm Balaji Telefilms.
Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm mobile telephones and data service launched in 2016, with initially free and subsequently low pricing. That aggressive position forced rivals to follow suit and lower rates, putting some into precarious financial positions. Jio Infocomm now has some 252 million subscribers, including 37 million added in the third quarter of 2018. Content providers across India are now creating digital shows in preparation for an as yet unnamed Jio OTT platform that is expected to launch mid-2019.