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Uday Shankar and James Murdoch seal deal to become major shareholders in Viacom18

Bodhi Tree Systems, a platform of Lupa Systems and Uday Shankar will invest Rs 13,500 crore (~$1.78 billion) in Viacom18

James Murdoch and Uday Shankar

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, Mukesh D Ambani, Chairman & Managing Director of Reliance Industries Limited, 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.

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