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James Murdoch invests $1.8B in India's Viacom18

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Apr 28, 2022
Illustration of a collage featuring an old TV, parts of dollar bills, and a TV test pattern.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

James Murdoch and Uday Shanker's Bodhi Tree Systems will invest $1.78 billion into India-based Viacom18 with the goal of creating a streaming and TV giant in the South Asian country.

Why it matters: India has long been seen as one of the most important emerging markets in streaming.

  • India is Disney+'s biggest region, contributing 49 million of the streamer's 129 million subscriber base — more than the U.S. and Canada combined.
  • On the other hand, Netflix has struggled to gain a foothold in the country, which favors low-cost subscriptions.

Details: Viacom18 is a joint venture between Paramount Global and billionaire Mukesh Ambani.

  • Reliance Projects & Property Management Services, a subsidiary of Ambani's Reliance Industries, will add an additional $216 million.
  • Reliance will move its streaming service JioCinema over to Viacom18, which already owns streaming service VOOT and the suite of Colors TV channels.

What's next: The deal is expected to close within the next six months.

Catch up quick: Murdoch partnered with Shanker last year to form Bohdi Tree, with the goal of tapping into emerging markets. Bodhi Tree is propped up by $1.5 billion from the Qatar Investment Authority.

Be smart: Reliance is bidding on the Indian Premier League, the hugely popular cricket league, which could fetch as much as $5 billion.

  • Reliance will be bidding against established streamers Disney and Amazon, as well as Sony and India-based Zee Entertainment Enterprises.

What they're saying: "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," Murdoch and Shanker said in a statement.

  • Ambani added: "We are very excited to partner with Bodhi Tree and lead India's transition to a streaming-first media market."
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