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Disney, Mukesh Ambani Create New India Media Giant


NEW DELHI/LONDON (CNN) —  Disney is joining forces with Asia’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, to create a new media giant in India that says it will reach a domestic audience of more than 750 million people.

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries and Disney have combined their digital streaming platforms and 100 TV channels in the country in a joint venture worth about $8.5 billion, the companies said in a statement Wednesday.

Talk of a potential deal has been swirling for some time, as Disney has struggled to take advantage of the opportunity presented by a nation of more than 1 billion people where English is widely spoken. The company is also facing a multitude of problems back home.

Disney made a major push into the country in 2019, when it acquired most of 21st Century Fox, including its vast Star India network.

Reliance will own just over 63% of the new entity, mostly through its Viacom18 subsidiary, with Disney (DIS) holding the rest.

“This is a landmark agreement that heralds a new era in the Indian entertainment industry,” said Mukesh Ambani, whose sprawling business empire is worth more than $236 billion and spans retail, technology and renewable energy.

Mukesh Ambani’s wife Nita M. Ambani will be the chairperson of the joint venture, which combines Disney’s “acclaimed films and shows” with Viacom18’s “renowned productions and sports offerings,” the companies said, adding that the venture would also cater to the Indian diaspora across the world.

“India is the world’s most populous market, and we are excited for the opportunities that this joint venture will provide to create long-term value for the company,” said Disney CEO Bob Iger.

Disney’s streaming app in India, Hotstar, has shed millions of subscribers since then and suffered another blow last March when it stopped streaming HBO content.