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Paramount+ looks to make India debut in 2023

The platform will be hitched to the Viacom18 wagon driven by Reliance and Bodhi Tree.

Paramount+ has announced plans to enter India in 2023 as part of its expansion drive, according to Paramount Global’s President and CEO Bob Bakish. Bakish broke the news in his statement during an earnings call held recently to discuss the company’s Q1 2022 report. He added that Paramount+ will be distributed in India in a joint venture with Viacom18’s platform.

Bakish said that Viacom18 is set to become a significant streaming player in India following a capital infusion from Bodhi Tree Systems— an investment company floated by James Murdoch and Uday Shankar.

“(India) is a fundamentally attractive market. It is a market at scale. It has a tremendous future ahead of it in the context of media. We like the model of Viacom18 which has a broad reach. We are going to do it in a capital-efficient, hard bundle way,” Bakish elaborated during the call.

Paramount’s India strategy is in line with its broader expansion plans in other markets wherein Paramount+ is made available through “hard bundles” with the help of partners. Bakish reasoned that these bundles aid user growth without burning capital in acquiring subscribers.

The company also discussed plans to roll out its service in the United Kingdom (With Sky) and South Korea (With CJ ENM) in June this year. The OTT platform will also be available in other European markets such as Italy, France, Germany, and Austria in the second half of this year, as it looks to move into more than 60 countries by the end of 2022.

The announcement is significant as it marks the entry of yet another streaming platform in India where there are already over 50 streaming platforms. The entry of Paramount+ is likely to be watched closely by other streaming companies and may precipitate consolidation among industry players.

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Bodhi Tree invests Rs 13,500 crore in Viacom18

News of the Paramount+ foray into India comes in the wake of Reliance and Viacom18’s partnership with Bodhi Tree Systems to float an entity with stakes in TV and streaming. Viacom18 is a joint venture between Reliance’s Network18 and U.S. media conglomerate Viacom, which runs 38 channels including Colors TV and OTT platform VOOT in India.

As part of the deal, Bodhi Tree Systems, along with a consortium of investors, will invest Rs.13,500 crores (roughly $1.78 billion) in Viacom18 to help pivot Indian media to a “streaming-first” approach, the companies said in a statement.

Reliance revealed that it was investing Rs. 1,645 crores ($216 million) through its subsidiary— Reliance Projects & Property Management Services Limited— in Viacom18. It will also be handing over its on-demand streaming service JioCinema OTT to Viacom18.

What about Paramount’s content slate?

Paramount Global will be a shareholder in Viacom18 as part of this deal and make its vast library available to Viacom18. The slate will consist of content from Paramount Global’s content studios, TV networks, and streaming services.

Some of these are:

  • CBS
  • Showtime Networks
  • Paramount Pictures
  • Nickelodeon
  • MTV
  • Comedy Central
  • BET
  • Paramount+
  • Pluto TV

Snapshot of Paramount Global’s financials

Paramount+ ended 2021 with 32.8 million subscribers and added 6.8 million in the first quarter (39.6 million) of this year, according to its earnings report. The company is targetting to hit 100 million by 2024 in which India will play an instrumental role, Bakish explained.

The company saw a decrease of one percent in its total revenue ($7.3 billion). However, its DTC (Direct-to-Consumer) revenue increased 82 percent year-over-year from nearly $600 million to $1.1 billion.

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The earnings report is the growth observed in the company’s theatrical business revenue. The company earned $131 million in Q1 2022 compared to a million dollars in Q1 2021. It is significant because the fact that theatrical business revenue is gaining ground means that streaming companies may find it difficult to sustain the momentum of their growth in the coming quarters.

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I cover several beats such as Crypto, Telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I can be found loitering at my local theatre when I am off work consuming movies by the dozen.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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