Disney & Reliance in $8.5 Billion Deal to Combine Star India, Viacom18


An $8.5 billion deal between Reliance Industries and The Walt Disney Company will bring together the Viacom18 and Star India businesses into a joint venture.

Viacom18 will be merged into Star India through a court-approved scheme of arrangement. Following the transaction, the joint venture will be controlled by Reliance, which will hold a 16.34 percent stake, with Viacom18 holding 46.82 percent and Disney 36.84 percent. Disney may also contribute certain additional media assets to the venture.

The venture will be chaired by Nita M. Ambani. Former Star India chief Uday Shankar has been tapped as vice chair and is providing strategic guidance to the combined operation, which will encompass channel brands like Colors, StarPlus and StarGOLD, lucrative sports assets Star Sports and Sports18 and the digital platforms JioCinema and Hotstar. Disney has entered into a content licensing pact with the joint venture. Approval is expected in the fourth quarter of this year or the first quarter of next.

“India is the world’s most populous market, and we are excited for the opportunities that this joint venture will provide to create long-term value for the company,” said Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company. “Reliance has a deep understanding of the Indian market and consumer, and together we will create one of the country’s leading media companies, allowing us to better serve consumers with a broad portfolio of digital services and entertainment and sports content.”

Mukesh D Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, said, “This is a landmark agreement that heralds a new era in the Indian entertainment industry. We have always respected Disney as the best media group globally and are very excited at forming this strategic joint venture that will help us pool our extensive resources, creative prowess and market insights to deliver unparalleled content at affordable prices to audiences across the nation. We welcome Disney as a key partner of Reliance group.”

Uday Shankar, co-founder of Bodhi Tree Systems, said, “We are privileged to be enhancing our relationship with Reliance to now also include Disney, a global leader in media and entertainment. All of us are committed to delivering exceptional value to our audiences, advertisers and partners. This joint venture is poised to shape the future of entertainment in India and accelerate the Prime Minister’s vision of making Digital India a global exemplar.”