TV18 is paying $20 million to buy a 1% stake in Viacom18, raising its shareholding from 50% to 51%. The deal values the business at $2 billion. The branding and license agreement between Viacom and Viacom18 is also extended for a further 10 years.
The move allows Ambani, India’s richest businessman, to increase the crossover between Viacom18 and the other parts of his media empire, which includes TV18, and crucially Jio. Ambani’s Reliance Industries spent a reported $22 billion building out Jio as a nationwide cellular broadband network, which launched some 18 months ago.
Since then, Jio, with its lower tariffs and national reach, has transformed the Indian media and telecoms landscape. It has forced mergers among cellular phone operators, caused consolidation in pay-TV, and opened the door to OTT services such as Amazon and Netflix.
When the joint venture was hatched in 2007, it had three channels– MTV, Nickelodeon and Vh1. Viacom18 today has 44 television channels across 80 countries in 6 different languages, and straddles broadcast, digital, films, merchandise and live events. Revenues last year were $477 million (Rs. 30.44 billion) in last financial year 2016-17.
The group was the backer of the recently released hit movie “Padmaavat.” Its director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, is reported to be setting up his next film project with the company.
Earlier this week, a research paper from consultancy Media Partners Asia showed India to be by far the most significant part of Asia for the TV ventures of U.S. media conglomerates.
“The transaction further enables our vision for Viacom18 to accentuate its focus on excellence and integration in the broadcast and digital space. The entertainment powerhouse continues to be bolstered by Viacom’s global expertise in content creation and curation, along with Network18 group and affiliates’ strength across the media & telecom value-chain,” said Adil Zainulbhai, Chairman – Network18.
“Viacom 18 is one of the fastest growing companies in India’s dynamic media and technology sector and, as a result of this transaction, we believe it will be even better-positioned for accelerated growth through closer integration and alignment with the Network 18 Group and its affiliates,” said David Lynn, CEO – Viacom International Media Networks.