Viacom18 set to be an even bigger player: Paramount chief Bob Bakish

Bakish believes that apart from the investments from Bodhi Tree, the strategic partnership with Reliance will help Viacom18 drive the next level of growth in India

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: May 13, 2022 8:34 AM  | 4 min read
Bob Bakish

Viacom18, the joint venture (JV) between Reliance Industries backed TV18 and Paramount Global, is set up to become a bigger player in the market due to the Rs 13,500 crore fund infusion by James Murdoch and Uday Shankar's Bodhi Tree Systems, Paramount Global President and CEO Bob Bakish told analysts during the company's Q1 2022 earnings call.

Bakish, who has always been bullish about the Indian media & entertainment market, also announced that Paramount+ will be distributed in India through Viacom18’s platform in 2023. "India is a fundamentally attractive market. It’s a market that’s already at scale and has a tremendous future ahead of it in the context of media. As I think you know, since its inception, Viacom18 has been a significant player in the market. And the recent agreement with Bodhi Tree, we look at that as a compelling way to really drive the next level of growth. And obviously, they’re going to make a significant capital infusion into the business," Bakish told analysts.

The Paramount Global boss also stated that Viacom18 as an asset is very attractive with assets across TV broadcasting and streaming besides the presence of a film production business.

"When we look at India and we think about our current situation, I would really just highlight three things. The first thing is that we really like Viacom18. It’s the model we like. It has broad reach television networks, including the market-leading Colors brand, combined with a film business, Hindi film business, it’s both national and regional, and of course has streaming assets as well, all underpinned by a strong local content engine. So, that’s the model we like in general," Bakish pointed out.

Apart from the investments from Bodhi Tree, Bakish believes that the strategic partnership with Reliance, which is a leader in the telecom business, will help Viacom18 become a bigger player in the market.

"Second thing is, our core partner there is Reliance. That’s arguably the strongest and most powerful company in India. And they also own the telecom market leader, Jio. So, we think that’s great. And as I said, now, Viacom18 is set up to be an even bigger player in the market, including in streaming. So, we look at that as a great opportunity for Paramount+," he added.

On the launch of the streaming service Paramount+ in India, Bakish stated that the country will be incremental to Paramount Global's objective of achieving 100 million subscribers. "As I said in my remarks, we’re going to enter in 2023 in India and we’re going to do so in a very capital efficient, hard bundle way. And so, we think that’s a great route into that market. And I would also note that India will be incremental to our 100 million sub guidance. It’s early days. So, we’re still at the point of deciding what we want to put out there. But it’s definitely incremental to our guide."

Recently, Reliance and Viacom18 had entered into a strategic partnership with Bodhi Tree Systems, which is a platform of James Murdoch's Lupa Systems and Uday Shankar, to form one of the largest TV and digital streaming companies in India.

Bodhi Tree Systems is leading fundraising with a consortium of investors to invest Rs 13,500 crore in Viacom18, to jointly build India's leading entertainment platform and pioneer the Indian media landscape's transformation to a "streaming-first" approach.

Furthermore, Reliance Projects & Property Management Services Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries which has a significant presence in television, OTT, distribution, content creation, and production services, will invest Rs 1,645 crore. In addition, the popular JioCinema OTT app will be transferred to Viacom18.

Paramount Global will continue as a shareholder of Viacom18 and will continue to supply Viacom18 with its premium global content.

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