Mumbai: In a move that could reshape India’s entertainment landscape, Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries (RIL) and Walt Disney Co. have taken a crucial step towards a blockbuster merger, signing a non-binding agreement that potentially includes the integration of their respective streaming platforms, Jio Cinema and Disney+ Hotstar.
This potential union, expected to be finalized by February 2024, would create the biggest entertainment conglomerate in India, with Reliance holding a 51% stake and Disney retaining 49%. The combined entity promises an unparalleled OTT experience, uniting cricket and football streaming rights, along with popular content from HBO, WB, and Disney’s vast library.
The merger talks also mark an intriguing twist in the battle for online viewership. Jio Cinema and Disney+ Hotstar have been fierce rivals, often locked in bidding wars for major sporting events like the IPL and international cricket tournaments. This merger could put an end to that, consolidating streaming rights under one powerful umbrella.
While Star India channels’ cricket rights might remain on television, the merged OTT platform, Jio-Disney, is likely to secure digital streaming rights. This move could be a financial lifeline for Hotstar, which has faced challenges in recent years after losing the IPL and HBO deals.
However, the potential merger has also triggered an exodus from Hotstar, with some users fearing a shift in content focus or higher subscription costs.
Beyond streaming, the Reliance-Disney deal could also shake up India’s television landscape. With Reliance gaining control over Star India channels, viewers might witness significant changes in programming and content distribution.
While the final details are still being hammered out, one thing is clear: the potential merger between Reliance and Disney is a game-changer, promising to reshape the way Indians consume entertainment, both online and through traditional channels. The coming months will reveal the true impact of this mega-deal, leaving many in the industry watching with bated breath.
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