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Updated January 4th, 2024 at 15:14 IST

Reliance-Disney media merger progresses with antitrust due diligence

The move marks a significant step toward creating an entertainment powerhouse, with Reliance expected to hold a majority stake.

Reported by: Sankunni K
Reliance Industries
The deal is likely to be completed by February, with Reliance aiming to finish the process by the end of January. | Image:Republic
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Reliance-Disney Merger: Reliance Industries, led by Asia's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, and Walt Disney have begun antitrust due diligence for their proposed media and entertainment merger in India, news agency Reuters reported quoting sources. The move marks a significant step toward creating an entertainment powerhouse, with Reliance expected to hold a majority stake.

Legal representation and progress in talks

Indian law firms Khaitan & Co, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, and AZB & Partners are representing Reliance and Disney in the antitrust process. Talks have progressed, with officials from both companies having signed a non-binding term sheet during meetings in London in December.

Reshaping India's TV and Streaming Landscape

A finalised deal could reshape India's TV and streaming landscape, similar to the merger plan by Japan's Sony with Zee Entertainment. Potential divestitures of assets, especially TV channels, may be considered to address antitrust concerns and market power issues.

Antitrust review focus: Streaming businesses and cricket advertising

Antitrust scrutiny for the Reliance-Disney merger will primarily focus on their streaming businesses and advertising power during cricket events, notably the Indian Premier League (IPL). Ambani's strategy of offering free streaming of IPL has intensified competition with Disney in the Indian market.

Disney and Reliance agreement: Hotstar and Viacom18 merger

As part of the merger plan, Disney and Reliance have reportedly agreed to combine Hotstar and Viacom18 in India. Reliance is expected to own a 51 per cent stake in the combined entity, with Disney controlling the remaining 49 per cent. The deal includes plans for a substantial investment of up to $1.5 billion in the new business.

Sony-Zee Merger: Bumpy road with legal issues and delays

In contrast, the $10 billion merger between Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) and Sony Pictures Network India (Culver Max Entertainment Pvt Ltd) has faced legal issues and delays. Originally planned for completion by the end of 2023, uncertainties surround the timeline, with conflicting reports suggesting completion in February or April 2024. Financially, the combined companies would control 70+ TV channels, ZEE5, Sony LIV, and film studios, holding 26 per cent of the market if the merger materialises.

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Published January 4th, 2024 at 14:59 IST

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