James Murdoch, Uday Shankar lead $1.8 bn investment in Reliance's Viacom18

New Delhi: An investment company set up by Rupert Murdoch's son James and former Disney India executive Uday Shankar said on Wednesday it will invest $1.8 billion in Reliance Industries' broadcasting business Viacom18.

Bodhi Tree Systems, a venture between James Murdoch's Lupa Systems and Shankar, is leading a fundraising in Viacom18 with a consortium of investors aimed at building India's "leading entertainment platform", the entities said in a joint statement.

'Deal India's transition to a streaming-first media market'

Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani said the partnership 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.

Paramount Global (formerly known as ViacomCBS), a leading global media and entertainment company comprised of iconic content studios, TV networks and streaming services including CBS, Showtime Networks, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, BET, Paramount+ and Pluto TV will continue as a shareholder of Viacom18 and will continue to supply Viacom18 its premium global content, a statement said.

Viacom18 is amongst the leading players in the core linear television business with 38 channels across nine languages and a pan-India presence.

Transaction expected to close within six months

The transaction is expected to close within six months and is subject to closing conditions and requisite approvals.

Reliance Projects and Property Management Services, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries which has significant presence in television, OTT, distribution, content creation, and production services, will invest Rs 1,645 crore, IANS reported.

In addition, the popular JioCinema OTT app will be transferred to Viacom18.

Indians are rapidly adopting streaming platforms including Netflix and Amazon's Prime Video, which have been offering cheaper plans and local language content.

As well as 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 James 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.

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