Bodhi Tree Systems—backed by James Murdoch, the youngest son of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch—is investing 135 billion rupees ($1.8 billion) into billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Viacom18 to create one of the largest TV and digital streaming companies in India.
Ambani’s Reliance Industries will separately inject 16.5 billion rupees cash into Viacom18, a joint venture between Reliance and U.S. media giant Viacom Inc. India’s biggest company by market cap will also transfer its over-the-top, or OTT, platform JioCinema to Viacom18 as part of the transaction, which is expected to be completed within six months.
“We are very excited to partner with Bodhi Tree and lead India’s transition to a streaming-first media market,” Ambani said in a statement. “We are committed to bringing the best media and entertainment services for Indian customers though this partnership.”
The partnership with Bodhi Tree—which also counts Uday Shankar, the former president of The Walt Disney Company in the Asia Pacific, and sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority among its shareholders—will help strengthen Viacom18 amid intensifying competition in the Indian media market. Upon completion of the deal, Viacom18 will have pan India presence with 38 channels across nine languages, including Paramount Global’s CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and Showtime Networks.
“Our ambition is to leverage technology advances, particularly in mobile to provide meaningful media solutions to meet everyday media and entertainment needs at scale,” Murdoch and Shankar said. “We seek to reshape the entertainment experience across (India’s) more than 1 billion screens.”
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Ambani, who made his fortunes from oil refining and petrochemicals, is India’s second-richest person with a net worth of $107.2 billion, according to Forbes’ Real-Time Billionaires List. He also has interests in telecommunications and retail. (Disclosure: Reliance Industries owns Network18, which publishes Forbes India.)