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Paramount Global Sells Stake In Viacom18 To India’s Reliance For $500 Million

Paramount Global has sold its 13% equity interest in Viacom18 Media to Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries for the equivalent $517 million.

The close of the transaction, revealed in an SEC filing, is subject to regulatory approval and the completion of a previously announced joint venture involving Reliance, Viacom18 and Star Disney.

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After the closing, Paramount will continue to license its content to Viacom18.

The move provides the Bob Bakish led, Shari Redstone-owned company, struggling with high debt and streaming losses, with an infusion of fresh cash. It’s in line with Paramount’s strategy of divesting assets it considers non-core as it has with publisher Simon & Schuster, mixed martial arts promoter Bellator, real estate and other businesses. Layoffs in February impacted about 800 U.S. employees. It remains the subject of ongoing M&A speculation with David Ellison’s Skydance to rival media groups to private equity.

Disney and Reliance late last month announced the creation of a joint venture worth about $8.5 billion to merge their respective digital streaming and television assets in India. Disney, which has had a rocky road with Star (inherited from 20th Century Fox), will hold about 37% of the venture, which combine the businesses of Mumbai-based Reliance Industries, Viacom18 Media, which it owns and controls, and Star India. The business of Viacom18 is to be merged into Star India.

Disney will provide content (the JV will have exclusive rights to distribute Disney films and productions in India, with a license to 30,000+ Disney content assets) and may also contribute certain additional media assets, subject to regulatory and third-party approvals.

Nita Ambani will be the Chairperson of the JV, Uday Shankar vice chair, providing strategic guidance to the JV.

The JV will bring together assets across entertainment (Colors, StarPlus, StarGOLD) and sports (Star Sports and Sports18) including events across television and digital platforms through JioCinema and Hotstar. The JV will have over 750 million viewers across India and will also cater to the global Indian diaspora.

The announcement said the JV will seek to lead the digital transformation of the media and entertainment industry in India with a “combination of the media expertise, cutting-edge technology and diverse content libraries of Viacom18 and Star India.”

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