After becoming the market leader in retail and telecommunications, Reliance Industries, owned by Mukesh Ambani, has set its sights on the media sector. It is building a war chest to take on broadcast giants Star and Sony Entertainment, even as there is a looming threat from e-commerce giant Amazon and billionaire Gautam Adani, who also have big ambitions. in an industry expected to hit $100 billion by 2030.
It was in 2014 that Reliance Industries acquired the Network18 group through its Independent Media Trust branch. This has helped it establish a strong foothold in the broadcast and online content industry through properties such as CNBC-TV18, CNN-News18, Colors and moneycontrol.com. Over the years, Reliance has taken stakes in Balaji Telefilms, Eros International and music streaming app Saavn.
Now he is focusing on the missing link – sports broadcasting. Voot Select has already secured the streaming rights for tournaments like Spanish LaLiga football and the US NBA (National Basketball Association). But India is a cricket-mad nation, and what better way than the Indian Premier League to wow the public? The annual cricket carnival has over the years attracted many fans. In the last edition, IPL’s audience reached 242 billion minutes.
Ambani-owned team Mumbai Indians may have struggled in the current edition of the IPL, but off the pitch Reliance appear to be preparing hard, with satellite TV and the rights to digital broadcast for five years to be won.
James Murdoch, the son of media baron Rupert Murdoch and former Star India chief Uday Shankar, lends a hand. Bodhi Tree Systems, a Lupa Systems platform of James Murdoch and Uday Shankar, announced earlier this week that it would invest 13,500 crore rupees ($1.78 billion) in Viacom18, which operates a Colors entertainment platform and the Voot streaming platform.
The plan is to jointly build India’s leading entertainment platform and transform the pioneering media landscape into a streaming-centric approach, the two companies said.
Ambani said the plan is to bring the best media and entertainment services to Indian customers through this partnership. “James and Uday’s track record is unmatched. For more than two decades, they have played an undeniable role in shaping the media ecosystem in India, Asia and globally. We are very excited to partner with Bodhi Tree and lead India’s transition to a streaming-centric media market,” he said.
Interestingly, it was under the leadership of Uday Shankar that Star successfully won the media rights for IPL in 2018. The partnership with him and Murdoch will undoubtedly help Ambani to strengthen the media sector.
The company has already got the ball rolling for sports broadcasting. On April 15, Viacom18 launched the Sports18 network’s dedicated sports broadcast channel. He followed that up with a Hindi sports channel. Now, if the group can win the IPL media rights, which will be auctioned later this year, it will give their sports offerings a big boost.
While Star was already strong in satellite broadcasting, with Disney it was able to bolster the Hotstar media streaming platform. Separately, Sony Entertainment and Zee have agreed to merge.
Thus, the investment of Murdoch and Uday Shankar will provide Ambani with more ammunition to take on the big names in the media sector.
But the competition is only increasing, and not only from Stars and Sony. Amazon’s streaming service, owned by US billionaire Jeff Bezos, Prime Video, announced Thursday the launch of 40 new titles in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. It will also offer movie rentals while bolstering its streaming service in the country.
Ambani’s billionaire rival Gautam Adani has also started making inroads into the media space. On April 26, Adani Enterprises incorporated AMG Media Networks to carry out the media-related business including publishing, advertising, broadcasting, content distribution on different types of media networks.
In March, Adani announced an agreement to acquire a minority stake in Quintillion Business Media, a digital business news platform.
“Adani Media Ventures intends to pave the way for new age media across different platforms,” said Sanjay Pugalia, CEO of Adani Media Ventures at the time.
“The adoption of technology and our nation’s increased ability to consume information has radically transformed the way the media is supposed to deliver authentic information. This is exactly what Adani Media Ventures is aiming for.
Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani already compete in areas like renewable energy. Ambani and Amazon are battling for e-commerce supremacy.
Over the past few years, Reliance Retail and Jio Platforms have attracted huge investments from global investors. The media is expected to be the next big battleground and billions of dollars are at stake. The incumbents are also unlikely to give up without a fight.