Disney nears deal to sell Indian assets to IPL broadcaster Reliance Industries
In a significant move within the media and entertainment industry, Disney is reportedly edging closer to finalising an agreement to offload its Indian assets, which include the Star India linear broadcaster and the popular Disney+ Hotstar streaming service.
The prospective buyer, Reliance Industries, a conglomerate under the helm of the billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani and a prominent player in cricket broadcasting, is set to acquire a controlling stake in these assets.
Disney has been diligently exploring options to divest itself of the Star and Hotstar platforms, either through an outright sale or by securing a strategic partner. According to reports from Bloomberg, this journey has culminated in advanced discussions with Reliance Industries, and a deal may soon come to an end.
Reliance Industries, already a notable player in the media landscape, operates the Viacom18 broadcaster and the Jio streaming platform. They are reportedly valuing Disney’s Indian assets in the range of $7 billion to $8 billion, while Disney’s own estimate leans closer to $10 billion.
Although the deal’s specifics are still under negotiation, there is the possibility of an announcement as early as November. Disney, in the event of the deal proceeding, would retain a minority stake in both Star and Hotstar.
The first hints of Reliance’s interest in acquiring a stake in Disney’s Indian operations emerged in September. Viacom18 has been making strategic inroads into the sports rights arena, particularly the portfolio previously held by Star India. Viacom18 has secured domestic streaming rights for the prestigious Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket tournament, formerly held by Hotstar.
Reliance Industries, via its JioCinema service, even provided viewers free access to the 2023 IPL earlier this year. Viacom18 secured exclusive linear and digital rights to home Indian national and domestic cricket matches until March 2028 through an August auction, further asserting its dominance in the sector. Star India, the previous holder of domestic rights for Indian home national team cricket, has been compelled to adapt to prevent its audience from shifting to Reliance and Viacom18.
One notable strategy employed by Star has been offering free access to the current men’s ODI Cricket World Cup in India to its mobile subscribers.
In other premium sports properties, Viacom18 also holds the rights to the Paris 2024 Olympics through a deal struck in December and maintains control over the Indian Super League soccer competition.
The dynamics in India’s sports and media landscape are poised for transformation as this high-stakes deal between Disney and Reliance Industries unfolds.