Reliance signs non-binding pact with Walt Disney for merger of India business: Media report

If completed, this would be the biggest merger deal in the media & entertainment sector

December 26, 2023 10:34 am | Updated 10:59 am IST - New Delhi

Image for representational purposes only.

Image for representational purposes only. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The 51:49 cash and stock deal in favour of Reliance Industries was signed in London last week, according to the media report.

Due diligence and valuation may begin soon and the deal could be finalised to "complete all commercial ratifications and regulatory approvals by February, even though RIL is keen to wrap up by January-end," the report said.

Comments from RIL could not be obtained as the mailed query remained unanswered.

When contacted, a spokesperson of Disney-Star declined to comment.

If completed, this would be the biggest merger deal in the media & entertainment sector, creating one of the largest entities having over 100 channels and two leading OTT platforms.

The merged entity would compete with leading media houses such as Zee Entertainment and Sony Pictures, which are in the midst of a merger deal themselves, and other rival OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Disney-Star India business consists of a linear network of Star India and 70 television channels running in eight languages and the OTT platform Disney+ Hotstar.

Reliance Industries through its step-down firm Viacom 18 has around 38 channels.

Besides, it has a streaming platform - JioCinema, which had earlier this year bagged the media rights, both digital and TV, to broadcast India's domestic matches as well as all the domestic tournaments hosted by BCCI for the next five years for a consideration of ₹5,963 crore.

The move will help Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), whose business spans from refinery to telecom and retail, to expand into the media business.

Earlier in December, Network18 Media & Investments Ltd and TV18 Broadcast announced a consolidation of their TV and digital news businesses.

Earlier in July this year, Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger had hinted toward selling the linear assets of the company citing challenges faced by them.

Star has come to Disney's fold after the acquisition of the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox in 2019. The Indian business has been struggling for the last few years.

According to the latest filing from Star India, its consolidated net profit for FY23 has dropped 31% to ₹1,272 crore. Its income had increased by 9% to ₹20,699 crore.

Novi Digital Entertainment, which owns OTT platform Disney+ Hotstar reported a widening of its loss to ₹748 crore, while its revenue was up 35% to ₹4,331 crore.

Earlier this year, the RIL-controlled media house had disrupted by live streaming the IPL matches through its OTT platform JioCinema.

India's leading media house Zee Entertainment, which has announced a merger with rival Culver Max Entertainment (earlier known as Sony Pictures Networks India), has announced to extend its deadline of December 21, by one month.

If this goes through, then it would be the leading media & entertainment firm in the country worth $10 billion.

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