A joint venture investment platform run by James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems and former Disney India head Uday Shankar plans to invest close to $2 billion in Viacom18, the broadcasting arm of tycoon Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries.
Bodhi Tree Systems is leading a fundraising round in Viacom18 with a clutch of investors aimed at building India’s “leading entertainment platform”, the entities said in a joint statement.
Ambani said the tie-up will help “India’s transition to a streaming-first media market”. Reliance held a 51% stake in Viacom18, with ViacomCBS, which recently changed its name to Paramount Global, holding the rest.
Some Indian media reported the joint venture has been set up with an eye to bid for the broadcast rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament during 2023-27.
Reliance, Amazon and Sony-Zee are said to be in fray for the broadcast rights to IPL, though the Ambani conglomerate hasn’t announced it would bid for the rights through the venture.
Meanwhile, Indians are rapidly adopting streaming platforms including Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video, which have been offering cheaper plans and local language content.
Along with streaming platform “VOOT”, Viacom18 runs several TV channels in India, including Nickelodeon and Comedy Central.
Reuters reported in January that Reliance was in talks with Murdoch and Shankar on them taking a significant stake in Viacom18.
Wednesday’s statement did not disclose the new structure of Viacom18 but said that Paramount Global will continue as a shareholder and supply it with premium global content.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard