James Murdoch targets India with $2bn deal for Paramount & Reliance’s Viacom18

James Murdoch

James Murdoch-backed Bodhi Tree Systems has linked up with Reliance and Paramount-owned Viacom18 in India to create a $2bn company targeting the company’s fast-growing streaming ecosystem.

Bodhi Tree Systems, a newly-formed venture set up and led by Murdoch’s Lupa Systems and former Disney India executive Uday Shankar, is investing of INR13,500 crore ($1.8bn) in Viacom18.

Reliance will invest a further INR1,645 crore ($215m) into the media entity, with the companies aiming to form “one of the largest TV and digital streaming companies in India.”

Viacom18 is currently 51% owned by Reliance, with the remainder of the company owned by Paramount Global (formerly ViacomCBS). The structure of the new-look company has not been disclosed, but Paramount will remain a stakeholder and provide Viacom18 with premium content.

Along with more than 35 channels, Viacom18 owns and operates the Voot AVOD & SVOD platform.

Bodhi Tree said that it is partnering with Reliance to “jointly build India’s leading entertainment platform and pioneer the Indian media landscape’s transformation to a ‘streaming-first’ approach.”

Mukesh D Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, added: “James and Uday’s track record is unmatched. For over two decades, they have played an undeniable role in shaping the media ecosystem in India, Asia, and around the world.

“We are very excited to partner with Bodhi Tree and lead India’s transition to a streaming-first media market. We are committed to bringing the best media and entertainment services for Indian customers through this partnership.”

Murdoch and Shankar said: “Our ambition is to leverage technology advances, particularly in mobile, to provide meaningful solutions to meet everyday media and entertainment needs at scale. We seek to reshape the entertainment experience across more than 1 billion screens.”

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