Mukesh Ambani joins Anand Mahindra to back ‘Epic TV’

08 Jul,2013

By Arijit Barman & Nandini Raghavendra

 

Anand Mahindra

After Anand Mahindra, it’s the turn of India’s richest billionaire Mukesh Ambani to once again turn a venture capitalist and back a new media venture that is due to go on air mid-August.

 

“Epic TV” – a niche entertainment pay channel will be India’s first to showcase genre specific content related to history, folklore and mythology. Set up in October 2012, Epic Television Network is being led by Mahesh Samat, former managing director of Walt Disney Company who left the multi-national last year after a four year stint.

 

Mukesh Ambani

But interestingly, through this investment Mr Mahindra and Mr Ambani each have a 25.8% stake in the company and together have financial control. Even though the quantum of their investments and other financial details are not yet disclosed, according to industry sources there is an initial commitment of Rs 100 crore from the group of  “angel investors.” The amount can increase going forward depending on the business and expansion plans. Mr Samat himself has a 48.5% stake in the venture, as per the company’s filing with the Registrar of Companies (RoC).

 

A Reliance spokesperson confirmed the development but said the investment by Mr Ambani is “in his personal capacity.” The investment in Epic TV is routed through Reliance Ports and Terminal Ltd, one of Mr Ambani’s personal companies. Mr Mahesh Samat, Managing Director, Epic Television Network refused to comment about his investors.

 

Mr Samat in an earlier interaction had said a group of four investors has been instrumental in propping up his unique start-up but refused to divulge specific details. Only the name of Mr Mahindra became public last month. Even though Mr Mahindra or Mr Ambani are neither present in Epic’s board, senior M&M executives Rohit Khattar and Zhooben Bhiwandiwala are going to be the representatives.

 

The focus on niche content to be a clutter breaker is what attracted Mahindra at first who subsequently roped in his close friend Mr Ambani to support Epic, said people closely following the developments.  While Mahindra is known for his passion for the liberal arts and had studied film-making at Harvard, Mr Ambani himself is also a movie and entertainment buff. “This is a lucrative investment. Epic will create a new genre altogether and  post-digitization, the scope of pay TV will also grow exponentially, ” said an RIL executive.

 

“The idea is to be entertaining. Be episodic and build characters, actually investigate our past, create characters set in history to help us understand our history better and yet be entertaining,” explained Mr Samat. He however is clear that Epic will not be a general entertainment channel (GEC) like Star Plus or Colors. Industry sources add that around six shows have already been commissioned and one of the period shows is based on a Sherlock Holmes like sleuth set in the backdrop of Mughal India.

 

Currently Mr Samat’s focus is on creating intellectual property for Epic and then leveraging the IP into verticals like publishing, live events, theatre as well as syndication. While the channel is the first offering, the investors are open to adding other channels, though not in the areas of news, music or youth.

 

Analysts see this move as part of a larger trend of primetime corporate newsmakers bankrolling media ventures – news and entertainment – themselves. “Corporate India is actually no stranger to owning media, especially news organisations. That history may have been chequered but their aborted experiments is hardly desisting anybody anymore. Smart CEOs and savvy industrial houses think this is the opportune time to tweak their strategies to relook at the sector either through personal investments or strategic corporate diversifications. In a growing economy with rising discretionary spending, the evolving media and entertainment sector is grabbing unprecedented business eyeballs,” quipped an investment banker, specialising in M&As in this space, on condition of anonymity.

 

The road to profitability will come only from clearly segmenting the industry and in finding a niche. Thus Mr Mahindra’s existing venture Mumbai Mantra is scouting for opportunities to create niche content and also at infrastructure that will be like an intersection between media and lifestyle. Mr Mahindra’s family is also involved in several publishing ventures.

 

Just like his younger brother Anil, Mukesh Ambani too via several of his promoter group entities has made several media investments, like Rajya Sabha MP of the Congress and a junior minister with the planning and parliamentary affairs portfolios, Rajeev Shukla and his wife Anurradha Prasad’s BAG Group companies. In the past his name had also cropped up as a potential investor behind Peter Mukerjea’s entertainment venture INX News and INX Media. But last year, Ambani’s flagship Reliance Industries hit the headlines after agreeing to fund a transaction that resulted in a sizeable stake for itself in a company controlling two of the industry’s largest businesses, the Network 18 Group and the Hyderabad-based Eenadu Group of Ramoji Rao.

 

Source:The Economic Times

Copyright © 2013, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved

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Post a Comment 

3 responses to “Mukesh Ambani joins Anand Mahindra to back ‘Epic TV’”

  1. Ankur Bhatnagar says:

    I have never experiance such a wonderful presentation of Indian history and folks.. Epic is doing the right job to wake Indian about their glorious past and an era when India economically, culturally ruled the world

  2. Sharath says:

    EPIC needs to get in touch with Chandamama down south and I would love to Join you guys

  3. Himanshu Agarwal says:

    Meghna broke the the initial story in May 2013 about Epic TV’s launch in August 2013. It’s heartening to note that Epic TV is being backed by some heavy weight investors in corporate India. Time to see if an Indian Channel can break the pegging order of Star, Viacom and Sony. Yes I know that Zee may be feeling lonely up there…

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