Reliance Industries is planning to sign a joint venture with UTV for content for its 4G services, reports The Financial Times, citing unnamed sources. The deal will cover games, Bollywood content and children’s content, a source is quoted as saying. MediaNama is awaiting a response from UTV on this deal.
Given that UTV is primarily a movie and broadcast business, it could extend well beyond this mandate. Remember that Jagdish Kumar, previously COO at Star TV for its South India operations had joined Reliance Industries as President (Media & Entertainment). Come to think of it, parts of UTV’s business are similar to another media conglomerate owned by the competing Reliance ADA Group – Reliance Entertainment. Both produce films, own gaming and online businesses and have an online presence, though Reliance Entertainment does much more – it owns cinema halls, is on the outdoor advertising and events business, has online properties like BigAdda (e-commerce) and BigFlix (movie streaming), apart from also owning an FM radio station business. UTV has a growing mobile business, and doesn’t appear to have much of an online focus.
If it does go through, the JV with UTV/Disney would be RIL’s second partnership for content and services – the first was a memorandum of understanding signed with Siemens for providing homeland security solutions – networked security services using video and other security applications, and is eyeing an integration with large scale city and highway projects for surveillance and law-enforcement. RIL is the only private entity to have high speed broadband spectrum across India, after Infotel won 4G/BWA spectrum in the 22 circles for which an auction was conducted last year, following its acquisition of Infotel.
UTV is itself in the process of being acquired by Disney. It probably would first need an approval from India’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), then go through a buyback open offer, there is no telling how long it will be before services are rolled out. Last week, UTV increased its stake in Indiagames to over 80%, by paying Rs 94.56 crore for 30.02% stake in the gaming venture.