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India’s Media Landscape: Disney’s $8.5 Billion Merger with Reliance Industries

Disney Reliance merger In indian media industry

Disney has announced a merger of its India operations with Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, marking an $8.5 billion deal that forms one of the world’s largest media ventures and signals a partial withdrawal from the Indian market by Disney. The merger combines Disney’s Star India with Viacom18, controlled by Reliance, and will offer over 98 channels across streaming platforms. Disney’s release states it will license more than 30,000 Disney content assets.

The number game

Reliance has invested $1.4 billion into the deal, retaining control of the joint media venture with a 16% stake, while Viacom18, another Reliance venture, holds 46%, leaving Disney with 37%. Nita Ambani will chair the joint venture. It is expected that the merger will happen around the last quarter of 2024 or the first quarter of 2025. This is a clear a representation of Disney’s new strategy in India, which is a response to the intense competition from Reliance.

Mukesh Ambani, a billionaire, who is Asia’s wealthiest individual with an estimated value of $113.8 billion, is the founder and director of Reliance Industries, a multifaceted conglomerate that deals in petrochemical production, retail business, and telecommunication. The company was initiated by his father, in the year 1996. The alliance aims at to reach more than 750 million viewers viewers nationwide.

A brief history

This move comes in the backdrop of a failed negotiation between Sony Corp and Zee entertainment, when in January, a merger of $10 billion between Sony Group Corporation and Zee Entertainment Enterprises being organized in India was shelved. Disney’s move to buy Star India in 2019, being the final straw after the acquisition of 21st Century Fox parent company costing $71 billion, was definitely a key strategic move by the multinational corporation. But there were also hurdles encountered, such as the transmission of the Indian Premier League content to Reliance (2022).

Struggling with its India business, Disney began seeking a sale of its India-based assets in July, with talks reported involving Indian billionaires Kalanithi Maran and Gautam Adani, along with Ambani.

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