India’s Reliance and Viacom18 have entered a strategic partnership with Bodhi Tree Systems, a platform of James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems and former Disney president Uday Shankar, to form a giant TV and digital streaming company in India.
Bodhi Tree is fundraising with a consortium of investors to invest $1.78 billion in Viacom18, to “jointly build India’s leading entertainment platform and pioneer the Indian media landscape’s transformation to a ‘streaming-first’ approach,” the companies said in a statement.
Viacom 18 is a joint venture of Network 18, the media group controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, and U.S. media conglomerate Viacom. It operates 38 channels across nine Indian languages, including the Colors TV channels, and streaming platform Voot.
Reliance Projects and Property Management Services Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ambani’s Reliance Industries which has a presence in television, streaming, distribution, content creation, and production services, will invest $216 million. Reliance’s JioCinema streaming app will be transferred to Viacom18. Paramount Global, formerly known as ViacomCBS, will continue as a shareholder of Viacom18 and will continue to supply Viacom18 with content.
Bodhi Tree, an investment platform designed to invest in media and consumer technology opportunities in South and Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on India, was set up by Murdoch and Shankar in February this year. It is financially supported by the Qatar Investment Authority, which will commit up to $1.5 billion to the venture.
Ambani, chair and MD of Reliance Industries, said: “James and Uday’s track record is unmatched. For over two decades, they have played an undeniable role in shaping the media ecosystem in India, Asia, and around the world. We are very excited to partner with Bodhi Tree and lead India’s transition to a streaming-first media market. We are committed to bringing the best media and entertainment services for Indian customers through this partnership.”
Murdoch and Shankar said: “We could not be more pleased to announce our new partnership. Our ambition is to leverage technology advances, particularly in mobile, to provide meaningful solutions to meet everyday media and entertainment needs at scale. We seek to reshape the entertainment experience across more than one billion screens.”
Once the deal is closed, the partners “will shape a vision, strategy, and execution for its businesses, building on the strong existing foundation,” they said in a statement.
The transaction is expected to close within six months and is subject to closing conditions and requisite approvals.