So will Viacom18 be the New Star?

28 Apr,2022




By Our Staff




Phew that’s the number representing the investment that James Murdoch and Uday Shankar are making in Viacom18.


The contours of the deal aren’t known at the time of writing. We don’t know what is the exact stake each party will hold, but Rs 13.5kcr is no small number.


So is Viacom18 likely to be the new star, as veteran mediaperson and MxMIndia’s Das ka Dum mentor-columnist put it in the answer to our question of today (See Link)?


It’s clear that the days of linear television are numbered. At least not in the form it is right now. Viewership of even regular entertainment, news and sports now happens via broadband. Yes, cable/DTH aren’t dead yet, but streaming is clearly where it’s all headed.


And if there’s one person who can take some really bold decisions in the space it’s Uday Shankar, the former Disney and Star boss.


So, as our report of last evening said: Reliance and Viacom18 have announced a strategic partnership with Bodhi Tree Systems, which is a platform of  Murdoch’s Lupa Systems and Uday Shankar, to form one of the largest TV and digital streaming companies in India.


Bodhi Tree Systems is leading a fund raise with a consortium of investors to invest Rs 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. Viacom18 owns and operates the suite of Colors TV channels and OTT platform, Voot.


Reliance Projects & Property Management Services Limited, 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. In addition, the popular JioCinema OTT app will be transferred to Viacom18. Paramount Global (formerly known as ViacomCBS), a leading global media and entertainment company which owns 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.


This is interesting as there is an additional investment from Reliance in the form of Rs 1645 crore and the JioCinema OTT app


Bodhi Tree Systems, a newly formed company formed by 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, will leverage the partners’ shared track record of building iconic businesses and shaping the media landscape in India and globally. Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the sovereign wealth fund of the State of Qatar, is an investor in Bodhi Tree Systems. The finer details of the transaction is likely to close later the year (six months and is subject to necessary government approvals.


Meanwhile, in the offices of Viacom18 in Mumbai, there is, as one staffer put it, cautious optimism. Optimism as it’s clear that the move will energise the organisation in more ways than one, and caution because the new Big(g) Bosses are no newbies to the business. They’ll be surely having a view on how things will be done.


But first they need to know what the investment would mean for the company and the various businesses that it runs.


For now, we could well see the rise (uday) of a new star!


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