Disney mulling sale or JV for Indian business

Disney is reportedly mulling the sale of its Indian TV and streaming business, or a search for a joint-venture partner to take a stake.

Talks on the potential sale, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, are said to be at a nascent stage, with no buyer yet found.

The Journal reported that Disney had approached at least one bank to advise on ways to make the Indian business grow.

A source close to the process cited by Reuters in a separate report said that finding an outright buyer would be challenging due to the enterprise value of the business – approximately US$15-16 billion.

Disney has been under increasing competitive pressure in India since Reliance Industries-owned Viacom18 deprived it of the rights to Indian Premier League cricket, the biggest sporting tournament in the sub-continent, and decided to make the latter free to view on its JioCinema streaming platform.

In April, Viacom18, the media outfit majority owned by Reliance Industries but also backed by James Murdoch and Uday Shankar, completed the merger of JioCinema with its own streaming offering Voot following regulatory approval.

Viacom18 had previously announced a partnership with Murdoch and Shankar’s Bodhi Tree Systems to set up a joint streaming giant with the latter making a major investment in Viacom18.

In May JioCinema struck a multi-year partnership with Comcast-owned NBCUniversal to bring NBCU films and TV series to India.

Disney owns the Disney+ Hotstar streaming platform and TV and production outfit Disney Star, inherited from its acquisition of the media assets of 21st Century Fox.

Disney, like other major studios, has been engaged in a cost-cutting drive due to the global economic downturn and challenges with the direct-to-consumer streaming model on which it bet heavily.

In June, the studio shut down its remaining linear networks in South East Asia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea as it continued to pivot to streaming in the region.

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