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Merger Between Reliance Industries and Walt Disney Co. Starts to Take Shape



In a move that can significantly reshape the Indian media landscape, two entertainment and streaming giants, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) and The Walt Disney Company have come together to sign a non-binding term sheet to merge their respective media operations in the Indian subcontinent. This merger, if finalised, will bring together Reliance’s Viacom 18 and Disney’s Star India to create the largest media and entertainment entity in the country. 


Shared Ownership: What do we know about this non-binding agreement?

A non-binding term sheet is a preliminary agreement outlining the key terms of a potential deal and it holds no legal obligation for either party to follow through. The framework established for a possible merger states that Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance would have a majority stake (51%) in the combined entity while Disney retains a 49% ownership interest. 

The mega entity that this merger will form will encompass RIL’s OTT platform, JioCinema and Disney Star India’s extensive network of 70+ channels in India. The companies have planned for an initial investment of approximately $1-1.5 billion.


Purpose and Impact of this Merger

The vision behind this merger goes beyond the digital streaming sector. With this partnership, the final entity aims to leverage Reliance’s powerful digital infrastructure and Disney’s global media expertise to unlock the immense potential of the Indian entertainment market. 

With the initial investment of over $1 Billion into the deal, they wish to fuel their control over the unprecedented amount of advertising that will gain traction during the high-octane cricket season in India. The alliance between Disney and Reliance holds immense strategic significance, which will go past their rivalry to acquire cricket streaming rights in India. This merger will also allow them to influence the future landscape of sports broadcasting in India.


Mutual Wins for Reliance and Disney

With this merger, Reliance gains a monopoly-like control over the channels of distribution while diversifying its content library. Disney stands to benefit greatly from Reliance’s digital reach and wishes to rekindle its OTT platform, Hotstar. This strategic integration is crucial for Disney, as its existing Indian TV channels, though profitable, haven’t replicated the success of their counterparts among the Indian audience.


Streaming Players Should Brace Themselves as Competition Heats Up

The new entity is expected to give formidable competition to global streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. The news of their merger itself was a signal for the start of an epic battle for viewership, content supremacy and more significant market share. As the digital battlefield intensifies, Indian viewers are offered a promising spectacle that will result in a thrilling plethora of content. 


Next Steps to Follow

Both companies are expected to conduct thorough due diligence and seek regulatory approvals in the coming months. Further details regarding the operational and structural specifics of the merged entity are anticipated to come up shortly.

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