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James Murdoch-backed Viacom18 to bring Succession, other HBO catalog to India
April 28, 2023

James Murdoch-backed Viacom18 to bring Succession, other HBO catalog to India

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Warner Bros. Discovery has partnered with Mukesh Ambani-backed Viacom18 to bring HBO and other movies and shows from the WB catalog to India in a major win for the Reliance joint venture’s service that is aggressively winning mindshare from rivals including Disney’s Hotstar, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

HBO Original, Max Original, and a selection of Warner Bros. television series will debut on Reliance’s JioCinema next month, with streaming occurring simultaneously with the U.S., according to a joint statement from Warner Bros. and Viacom18.

JioCinema’s ‘exclusive’ content agreement comes as the platform has attracted tens of millions of users in recent weeks, driven by free streaming of the IPL cricket tournament for anyone with internet access. In 2022, Viacom18 outbid Disney to secure five years of IPL streaming rights for the Indian subcontinent, at a cost of $3 billion.

Reliance, which holds a majority stake in Viacom18, announced earlier this month that it would contribute $1.32 billion to the joint venture, a significant increase from the originally planned $216 million.

Thursday’s announcement deals a blow to Disney, as its Hotstar app gained traction through cricket’s popularity and premium content from HBO. The platform has since lost both the offerings.

The licensing agreement with Warner Bros., estimated to cost Viacom18 over $15 million annually, highlights Ambani’s growing efforts to establish JioCinema as a dominant streamer platform in India’s otherwise crowded market. Despite being included at no additional charge for all Jio subscribers, JioCinema, part of telecom behemoth Jio Platform’s content offerings, had previously struggled to attract customers.

In addition to the major investments, JioCinema has poached aggressively from Hotstar in recent months. The firm recently also appointed former Disney executive Kevin Vaz as Viacom18 CEO.

‘JioCinema has become the biggest platform for live sports. We are now on a mission to build the most magnetic destination for entertainment for all Indians,’ said Ferzad Palia, Head – SVOD & International Business, Viacom18, in a statement.

‘The strategic partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery is a big milestone in our journey to offer the best of Hollywood content to our elite consumers. We believe that Warner Bros. Discovery sets the global standards for premium content and this partnership allows us to create the best and the most comprehensive destination for our users.’

With the new content deal in place,  JioCinema is gradually positioning itself to potentially introduce a paid model for accessing select premium content.

In Viacom18, Warner Bros. has also found a deeply-pocketed partner in India. The New York-headquartered media giant has scaled back many of its operations in the South Asia in recent years, including discontinuing HBO and WB TV channels in India, Pakistan, Maldives and Bangladesh.


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