Gautam Adani and Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s two richest men, are doubling down on India’s media business, escalating competition in a market where Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. are also battling for over a billion users.
In a funding round led by James Murdoch-backed Bodhi Tree Systems, Ambani’s local joint venture with Paramount Global, Viacom18 Media Pvt., is slated to get 135 billion rupees ($1.8 billion). Separately, the tycoon’s flagship company, Adani Enterprises Ltd., announced the formation of a new media division, indicating his desire to capitalise on the rising sector.
The Viacom18 investment and Adani’s foray into media usher in a new phase in the competition for viewers and content in a market that boasts a thriving local film industry, a burgeoning middle class, and fast-increasing internet connectivity. However, it has proven to be a difficult market. Netflix, for example, has had to reduce its price in order to attract price-conscious customers. Still, according to Vivek Couto, managing director of Media Partners Asia, “India is the only full-scale, high-growth opportunity in Asia outside of China.” “Indonesia is also there, but it’s still a few pegs down still in terms of scalability.”
On Thursday, Reliance’s stock jumped as much as 2.2 percent in Mumbai. Network18 was down 19 percent, while TV18 Broadcast Ltd. was down 18 percent. Adani is only getting started in the Indian media sector, while Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd. is expanding its footprint through his Network18 Media & Investments Ltd. According to a statement, Adani Media Ventures Ltd. agreed to buy a stake in Quintillion Business Media Pvt. last month.
Quintillion was a Bloomberg LP (parent company of Bloomberg News) Indian partner. Viacom18 is preparing for an epic battle with Disney, Amazon, and Sony Group Corp. for broadcast rights to the Indian Premier League, a lucrative annual cricket tournament that is approximately equivalent to the Super Bowl, with $1.8 billion from Bodhi Tree and an extra $216 million from a Reliance arm. Bids are expected to reach $5 billion, according to sources familiar with the situation.
The IPL attracted 380 million viewers last year, and whichever broadcaster wins the rights will almost certainly gain millions of new subscribers in a very competitive market. Bodhi Tree’s investment also signals the Murdoch family’s comeback to an entertainment market it left behind when Walt Disney Co. acquired a swath of 21st Century Fox assets, including Star India, in 2019. Hotstar, a streaming network popular with millions of cricket fans around the world, is now owned by Disney.
Murdoch and Uday Shankar, the former CEO of Star India and later Disney Asia, have developed a new platform called Bodhi Tree. The Qatar Investment Authority, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, is an investor. Separately, Adani Group announced the formation of AMG Media Networks on Wednesday, with the company focusing on publishing, advertising, broadcasting, and distributing content across various forms of media networks. It didn’t go into detail.
Late last year, Sony and Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd., a local media conglomerate, decided to merge, creating a media giant worth almost $10 billion.