A 50:50 joint venture to distribute over 55 television channels across India has been created by Network 18's TV18 arm and Viacom18, signalling stiff competition for the Star-Zee carriage coalition MediaPro and Sony-Discovery's OneAlliance.
The new venture, called IndiaCast, will distribute news and entertainment TV channels from both media groups: CNBC TV18, CNN-IBN, CNBC Awaaz, IBN7, Colors, MTV, Nick, Sonic, VH1, Comedy Central, Colors HD, and the southern Eenadu service – recently acquired by Network18. In addition, IndiaCast will distribute channels from the Sun Network and Disney in the Hindi-speaking markets of the country.
"The Indian distribution market is throwing up ample opportunities and we are uniquely poised to make the most of this proposed alliance in an increasingly digitised environment. Distribution is one of the high-growth areas in this industry and we are excited to have a presence in this part of the business as well," said Sai Kumar, group chief executive officer, Network18 Group.
Viacom18 was established in 2007 as a 50:50 joint venture between Viacom Inc and Network18. Since 2010, the TV18 and Viacom channels have been distributed by an existing joint venture between Network18 and Kalanithi Maran's Sun TV. Sun18 will be part of the new venture in the Hindi-speaking areas, while IndiaCast channels will be distributed by Sun Networks in the latter's Tamil Nadu stronghold.
IndiaCast plans to unite domestic and international channel distribution through Viacom's global assets, placement services and content syndication, plus include new media platforms such as internet protocol television (IPTV), mobile TV and head end in the sky (HITS).
"The company will be the focal point not only for content and media distribution but also to drive the content asset monetisation business of these channels. The growth and way forward for media brands in the journey ahead is through content asset monetisation — taking content across geographies, platforms and mediums," said Anuj Gandhi, group chief executive of IndiaCast.
Bob Bakish, president and chief executive, Viacom International Media Networks, added: "As the Indian market continues to expand and evolve, the move to bring two media houses and the proposed consolidation of Eenadu channels, post acquisition, into one distribution sales house presents an opportunity to accelerate our growth in the region, while increasing efficiencies of operation. We're excited about the potential of IndiaCast and are looking forward to deepening our partnership with TV18 and Eenadu Group."
The launch of IndiaCast comes six months after leading conglomerate Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, announced its investment in Network18.