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Paramount In Talks To Sell Stake In Viacom18 To Disney India Partner Reliance — Bloomberg

Paramount Global could be set for change in the tough Indian media market.

A Bloomberg report, citing unnamed sources, claims the MTV and Comedy Central owner is in talks with Reliance Industries to sell its stake in their channels and streaming venture, Viacom18.

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This would allow Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, to consolidate his media assets as his conglom Reliance Industries prepares to form its new merged venture with Disney India.

Reliance already majority controls Viacom18, whose JioCinema has been one of the most consistent challengers to Disney’s streamer, Disney+ Hotstar, in India. Viacom18 also operates channels such as Colors, Comedy Central and MTV and has a production-distribution wing, Viacom18 Studios.

Bloomberg reported that talks over the 13% may not result in a deal, but are ongoing. A sale would bag Paramount, has been looking to reduce debts and cut spending internationally, around $550M.

Reliance is set to indirectly own over half of the shares in its Disney joint venture, with Ambani’s wife, Nita Ambani, set to become chair. Uday Shankar from James Murdoch’s Bodhi Tree System will also have a shareholding.

The new company would be valued at around $8.5B, with Disney owning about 37% of the rights. Reliance will be the controlling entity despite owning only just over 16% outright, with its subsidiary Viacom18 currently set for a nearly 47% share. The two shares combined would give Reliance 63% of the company.

Most of the U.S. biggest media players have struggled for growth in India over recent years. Disney was leading the streaming race after acquiring the Hotstar platform and merging it with Disney+ but after Bob Iger’s pivot to profitability of subscriber acquisition last year, it lost significant ground to rivals.

Disney is also due to take a $2.4B impairment charge by writing down net assets of channel operator Star India. Sony was due to merge with Zee Entertainment Enterprises but their long-gestating merger failed to materialize and was scrapped, while the likes of Netflix and Prime Video are in a competitive, saturated streaming market containing the likes of Hotstar, JioCinema, MX Player and Zee5.

Deadline has reached out to Reliance and Paramount for comment on the Bloomberg report.

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