An investment company set up by media baron James Murdoch and former Disney India executive Uday Shankar has entered into a partnership with Reliance Industries’ broadcasting business Viacom18 to form one of the largest TV and digital streaming companies in India. Bodhi Tree Systems, the content platform of James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems and Uday Shankar, along with a consortium of investors, including Paramount Global, will invest ₹13,500 crore in Viacom18.
“Bodhi Tree Systems is leading a fund raise with a consortium of investors to invest ₹13,500 crore in Viacom18, to jointly build India’s leading entertainment platform and pioneer the Indian media landscape’s transformation to a “streaming-first” approach,” says RIL in an exchange filing on Wednesday.
Reliance Projects & Property Management Services, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries, which has significant presence in television, OTT, distribution, content creation, and production services, will make an additional investment of ₹1,645 crore in Viacom18. Besides, the JioCinema OTT (over-the-top) app will be transferred to Viacom18.
The filing did not disclose the new structure of Viacom18, but mentioned that Uday Shankar and Lupa Systems’ Bodhi Tree to become major shareholders alongside Reliance and Paramount Global. Currently, Reliance owns a 51% stake in Viacom18, while the rest is held by ViacomCBS.
“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,” says the RIL filing.
The transaction is expected to close within six months and is subject to closing conditions and requisite approvals. After completing the deal, Viacom18 with Reliance, Bodhi Tree Systems and Paramount Global will shape a vision, strategy, and execution for its businesses, building on the strong existing foundation, says the release.
Viacom18 Media is one of India’s fastest growing entertainment networks that owns and operates the suite of Colors TV channels and OTT platform, VOOT. It has a portfolio of 38 channels across general entertainment, movies, sports, youth, music, and kids in India.
Mukesh Ambani, Chairman & MD of Reliance Industries Limited, says, “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."
He says Reliance is "excited" to partner with Bodhi Tree and lead India’s transition to a "streaming-first media market".
“We could not be more pleased to announce our new partnership,” say Murdoch and Shankar in a joint statement. “Our ambition is to leverage technology advances, particularly in mobile, to provide meaningful solutions to meet everyday media and entertainment needs at scale.”
Bodhi Tree Systems
Bodhi Tree Systems, a newly formed content platform between Lupa Systems founder and CEO James Murdoch and Uday Shankar, the former president of The Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific and former Chairman of Star and Disney India. It is a strategic investor in consumer technology opportunities in Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on India. Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the sovereign wealth fund of the State of Qatar, is an investor in Bodhi Tree Systems.