James Murdoch, Uday Shankar lead $1.8 billion investment in India’s Viacom18

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FILE PHOTO: Media Mogul Rupert Murdoch poses for a photograph with his sons Lachlan (L) and James as they arrive at St Bride’s church for a service to celebrate the wedding between Murdoch and former supermodel Jerry Hall which took place on Friday, in London, Britain March 5, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – An investment company set up by Rupert Murdoch’s son James and former Disney India executive Uday Shankar said on Wednesday, April 27, 2022, it will invest $1.8 billion in Reliance Industries’ broadcasting business Viacom18.

Bodhi Tree Systems, a venture between James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems and Shankar, is leading a fundraising in Viacom18 with a consortium of investors aimed at building India’s “leading entertainment platform”, the entities said in a joint statement.

Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani said the partnership will help “India’s transition to a streaming-first media market”. Reliance held a 51% stake in Viacom18, with ViacomCBS, which recently changed its name to Paramount Global, holding the rest.

FILE PHOTO: Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing firector of Reliance Industries, gestures as he answers a question during a media interaction in New Delhi, India, June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abid
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Indians are rapidly adopting streaming platforms including Netflix and Amazon’s <AMZN.O > Prime Video, which have been offering cheaper plans and local language content.

As well as streaming platform “VOOT”, Viacom18 runs several TV channels in India, including Nickelodeon and Comedy Central.

Reuters reported in January that Reliance was in talks with James Murdoch and Shankar on them taking a significant stake in Viacom18.

Wednesday’s statement did not disclose the new structure of Viacom18 but said that Paramount Global will continue as a shareholder and supply it with premium global content.

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