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SoftBank forms India & China focused digital content JV with Legendary Entertainment

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Japan’s SoftBank is forming a joint venture with the Hollywood production house and media company Legendary Entertainment, to enable them make use of Legendary’s intellectual property rights, across television, digital, licensing and merchandising and other ancillary lines.

While the terms of the partnership were not disclosed, SoftBank mentions that it will be using these rights to offer premium content across various mobile platforms with a particular focus on India and China markets.

In addition to this, SoftBank is also investing $250 million in Legendary Entertainment, which is expected to close in October 2014. As part of this investment, SoftBank Internet and Media Inc (SIMI) recently appointed CEO Nikesh Arora will be joining the company board.

Legendary Entertainment has backed films like The Dark Knight trilogy, Godzilla, Inception, Batman Begins, Superman Returns, The Hangover, 300 and 10,000 BC among others.

It also has a comic book division which offers graphic comics like Godzilla Awakening, Annihilator, A Town Called Dragon and The Tower Chronicles among others. Legendary had also acquired the popular YouTube channel Geek & Sundry in August this year.

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Dreamworks Animation acquisition: Interestingly, this deal follows rumors of SoftBank looking to acquire Dreamworks Animation in a deal valued at $3.4 billion. The deal now seems to have cooled off, as per a source-based The Wall Street Journal report from last week, although it noted that the negotiations could restart later and the companies could settle on a content partnership rather than an outright takeover.

SoftBank, which owns more than 30% shares of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, is currently flush with cash after the hugely successful Alibaba IPO.

SoftBank’s India connection

Bharti Enterprises, which runs Airtel, had formed a mobile internet joint venture with SoftBank called Bharti Softbank (BSB) in October 2011. This venture currently operates three mobile ventures including mobile messaging app Hike, mobile gaming venture Tiny Mogul Games and location-based deals service Hoppr.

Arora was also on Airtel’s board from 2008 to March 2014 while Brightstar, of which Softbank is the largest shareholder, picked up a majority stake in Bharti owned Beetel in July this year.

It will be interesting to see what kind of digital content is created or made available to the Indian market as part of this joint venture. Will it be restricted to The Dark Knight and Godzilla stickers (for example) on Hike? Or will video content from Legendary, possibly dubbed in various Indian languages, be made available as well?

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