Thursday, May 26, 2022

Reliance and Viacom18 Announce Partnership With Bodhi Tree Systems


Uday Shankar and Lupa Systems' Bodhi Tree to become major shareholder
alongside Reliance and Paramount Global

  • Bodhi Tree Systems, a platform of Lupa Systems and Uday Shankar, to invest Rs 13,500 crore (~$1.78 billion)  in Viacom18
  • Reliance Projects & Property Management Services to invest an additional Rs 1,645 crore (~$216 million).
  • JioCinema App to be contributed to Viacom18
  • Strategic Partnership between Reliance, Bodhi Tree Systems and Paramount Global committed to innovation and distribution in the media and entertainment sector in India

MUMBAI, India, April 27, 2022 -- Reliance and Viacom18 today announced 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 a fund raise 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. Viacom18 owns and operates the suite of Colors TV channels and OTT platform, VOOT.

Reliance Projects & Property Management Services Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries which has 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 (formerly known as ViacomCBS), a leading global media and entertainment company comprised of iconic content studios, TV networks and streaming services including CBS, Showtime Networks, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, BET, Paramount+ and Pluto TV will continue as a shareholder of Viacom18 and will continue to supply Viacom18 its premium global content.

Bodhi Tree Systems, a newly formed platform between Lupa Systems Founder and CEO James Murdoch and Uday Shankar, the former president of The Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific and former Chairman of Star and Disney India, will leverage the partners' shared track record of building iconic businesses and shaping the media landscape in India and globally. Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the sovereign wealth fund of the State of Qatar, is an investor in Bodhi Tree Systems.

Speaking about the partnership, Mr. Mukesh D Ambani, Chairman & Managing Director of Reliance Industries, said, "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."

"We could not be more pleased to announce our new 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."

Upon closing, Viacom18, in close cooperation with Reliance, Bodhi Tree Systems and Paramount Global, will shape a vision, strategy, and execution for its businesses, building on the strong existing foundation. Viacom18 is amongst the leading players in the core linear television business with 38 channels across nine languages and a pan India presence.

The transaction is expected to close within six months and is subject to closing conditions and requisite approvals.

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas and Khaitan & Co provided legal advisory and documentation support to RPPMSL and Viacom18. PWC and BDO provided independent valuation of the Jio Cinema business and Viacom18; Citi and HSBC acted as financial advisors to TV18 and RPPMSL respectively. AZB & Partners was the legal advisor to Bodhi Tree while EY provided diligence services to Bodhi Tree. JSA was the legal advisor to Paramount Global.

About Viacom18
Viacom18 Media Pvt. Ltd. is one of India's fastest growing entertainment networks and a house of iconic brands that offers multi-platform, multi-generational and multicultural brand experiences. Viacom18 defines entertainment in India by touching the lives of people through its properties on air, online, on ground, in cinemas and merchandise. Its portfolio of 38 channels across general entertainment, movies, sports, youth, music and kids genres delights the consumers across the country with its eclectic mix of programming. Voot, Viacom18's OTT platform, is one of India's leading AVOD and SVOD streaming service with a library of ~75,000 hours of Viacom18 network content, content from Paramount and Voot Originals. Viacom18 Studios has successfully produced and distributed iconic Hindi films and clutter-breaking regional films for over 12 years in India.

About Reliance Projects & Property Management Services Limited
Reliance Projects & Property Management Services Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited, India's largest private sector company. The Company is inter alia involved in the business of running media related digital platforms and in providing IT/ITES Support Services.

About Bodhi Tree
Bodhi Tree Systems is a strategic investor in consumer technology opportunities in Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on India. The entity is a platform of James Murdoch's Lupa Systems and Uday Shankar and was established in 2021 to explore and invest in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. In addition to media, Bodhi Tree expects to invest in other consumer technology sectors that represent significant opportunities but suffer from a lack of capital and innovation – including healthcare and education.

About James R. Murdoch
James Murdoch is an investor and philanthropist. After more than two decades of global leadership in the media and technology industries, James Murdoch founded Lupa Systems as a private holding company. James most recently served as CEO of 21st Century Fox from 2015 to 2019; previously he served as 21st Century Fox Co-COO, Chairman and CEO for Europe and Asia. Prior to his time at 21st Century Fox, James was the CEO and Chairman of Sky, and CEO of STAR TV. He is a Director of Tesla, the Dia Art Foundation, and Vice-Chair of the Center for New American Security. James and his wife, Kathryn Murdoch, are founders of Quadrivium, a foundation that invests in democracy reform, technology and society, scientific awareness, and climate and ocean health issues.

About Uday Shankar
Uday Shankar recently transitioned to an entrepreneurial career following decades in corporate management. With funding from global investors, he aims to support founders to create transformational solutions  A journalist by training, Uday led and transformed television. He took over as CEO of Star India in 2007 and transformed the company's broadcast operations and made Star India one of the biggest media and entertainment companies in Asia.  He subsequently led 21st Century Fox's operations throughout Asia.  Uday was appointed President of Walt Disney Asia Pacific when the Walt Disney Company acquired 21st Century Fox. Under his leadership, Star launched Hotstar – now Disney+ Hotstar –one of the most successful streaming services globally.  Uday currently serves as the President of Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FICCI). 

About Lupa
Lupa Systems is a private holding company founded in 2019 by James Murdoch, the former CEO of 21st Century Fox, Sky plc, and STAR. The company has presence in New York and Mumbai. Collectively, the Lupa team has extensive experience building and scaling businesses across the globe in multiple industries. Lupa focuses on companies within the technology and media industries, impact-driven companies focused on environmental sustainability, and emerging markets, particularly within the Indo-Pacific region. Website:


Viacom18 to build a strong SVOD platform: Paramount CFO Naveen Chopra

The platform will be created with the recent fundraising announced by the company

Viacom18, the joint venture between India's Reliance Industries and American media conglomerate Paramount Global, is planning to build an SVOD offering with the recent fundraising announced by the company, Paramount Global Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Naveen Chopra told analysts while speaking at the MoffettNathanson Annual Media & Communications Summit.

Viacom18 had last month announced that Bodhi Tree Systems, a platform of Lupa Systems and Uday Shankar, will invest Rs 13,500 crore in the company with Reliance Projects & Property Management Services infusing an additional Rs 1,645 crore.

Chopra further stated that the SVOD offering will be a force to reckon with in the Indian market. He added that Reliance's involvement in the JV will ensure that the SVOD offering has great local content and unrivalled distribution capabilities.

He made these comments while responding to skeptics who believe that it is difficult to generate returns from the streaming business in India.

"Fair enough. That has certainly played into how we've thought about a smarter way to play in that (India) market. We have a JV that we've been a part of actually for several years called Viacom 18 in India. Our partner in that JV is Reliance, which is obviously a hugely influential player in the Indian marketplace. The JV was originally established to help us monetize our linear channels in India, then expanded into AVOD with a service called Voot that I think has over 100 million users at this point," he said while speaking about Paramount Global's approach in the Indian market.

He further added, "And we recently announced that the JV is going to raise a significant amount of incremental capital so that it can start to build out an SVOD offering. And I think that's going to be a very powerful offering in the market. With Reliance's involvement, there will be great local content and unrivalled distribution capabilities. You don't really bet against Reliance in the Indian market. And for us, we're able to participate in that without investing any incremental capital. So for the skeptics, I think it is a very smart way to plan ahead."

Paramount, Chopra said, has a joint venture with Comcast in the UK which is called SkyShowtime. The JV is focused on smaller European markets and will eventually address 20 different European markets which include about 90 million homes. He further stated that the JV is a combination of content from Universal, Paramount, Showtime, Sky, and Nickelodeon.

"And one of the reasons that we entered into that JV is because it allows us to address some of these markets where it doesn't make sense to do so on a pure O&O basis. And the reason it may not make sense to do so is that some of those markets just don't have the scale to generate returns on the investments that are required. In some cases, the economic structure of how content is made available in those markets makes it challenging to invest too aggressively from a streaming perspective, might be the availability of free content over the air or whatever -- every market is a little bit different," Chopra explained.

Citing the example of Viacom18 in India, he also said it is better to have a local partner in markets where it doesn't have the content capabilities.

"And then in some cases, we don't have access to the same local content capabilities that we have in other markets. And in that case, being able to partner with somebody who can help add scale to that is valuable. So we like that model in certain situations. It's not our default model. Our default is that we want to be able to go into these markets where there are no services, but there are markets where it makes sense. Another example of that is actually India. There are a lot of skeptics out there about whether you can actually generate a return on streaming in India," he stated.


Originally published: April 28, 2022.

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