Paramount Global Sells Its Stake in Viacom18 to India’s Reliance Industries for $517 Million

Paramount Global has sold its 13% minority ownership of India’s Viacom18 to Reliance Industries, in a deal valued at $517 million, according to a regulatory filing. Viacom18 owns Indian streaming service JioCinema, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and MTV in India, among other assets. The deal helps Paramount clear up its balance sheet as it tries to potentially sell the media company.

Paramount Global has a $30 billion offer from The Weather Channel owner Byron Allen.

Viacom18

Reliance recently acquired majority control and ownership of Disney’s Indian media assets for $8.5 billion, which includes the Disney+ Hotstar subscription streaming service.

Hotstar has been key to the global rollout of Disney+ since the SVOD platform’s launch in late 2019. Key to that was Hotstar’s streaming rights to Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket, with the sport a national pastime in India.

When Hotstar lost the IPL rights to Viacom18 in 2023, the streamer, which at one time accounted for 36% of all Disney+ subscribers worldwide, began hemorrhaging subscribers. The platform lost 4.6 million subs in the first 90 days of 2023 after losing the IPL rights.

Through the most-recent fiscal period ended Dec. 31, 2023, Disney+ Hotstar added 700,000 subs, ending the period with 38.3 million subscribers — more than 25% of Disney+ global subscribers.

Disney+ Loses Indian Professional Cricket Streaming Rights to Paramount+

In a potential blow to SVOD subscriber growth in India, Disney lost out on its bid to retain Disney + Hotstar streaming rights to Indian Premiere League cricket. Disney lost the rights to Viacom18 — an Indian subsidiary of Paramount Global, parent to the Paramount+ streaming service.

Disney reportedly paid a record 236 billion rupees ($3 billion), while Viacom18 — which is 49% owned by Paramount Global — paid 205 billion rupees ($2.6 billion) for the streaming rights covering 410 matches over a five-year period.

The streaming rights to cricket have been key to driving Disney+ subscriber growth past 137 million in the most-recent fiscal period that ended March 31. Of that tally, more than 50 million subs come from India — largely due to IPL cricket, which is a national sport.

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The winning bid could factor significantly in the success of Paramount+, which is set to launch service in India in 2023 together with Viacom18.

“This year will be monumental for our streaming strategy as we accelerate our global ambitions, rapidly expanding Paramount+ in Europe beginning with the U.K., Italy, Germany, France and more by the end of this year and debut in Asia with South Korea in June,” Raffaele Annecchino, president and CEO of international networks, studios and streaming at Paramount Global, said in a statement last month.

Viacom18/Paramount Global reportedly beat out third-party bids from Sony and Amazon Prime Video.