DISNEY IS IN DISCUSSIONS WITH ADANI AND SUN TV

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Disney has engaged in discussions with prominent Indian billionaires Gautam Adani and the owner of Sun TV Network, Kalanithi Maran, as well as private equity firms regarding the potential sale of its streaming and television business within India, according to a report by Bloomberg News on Friday. The report indicates that Disney is exploring various options, which may involve selling some of its Indian operations or a combination of assets from the unit. These talks are still in their early stages, and it’s important to note that a final deal is not guaranteed, as reported by Bloomberg. The report does not specify a potential deal value.

As of now, Disney, Sun TV, and the Adani Group led by Gautam Adani have not provided immediate responses to Reuters’ request for comments.

This development follows a previous Reuters report from July, which mentioned Disney’s exploration of options to sell or establish a joint venture partner for its India digital and TV business. Disney has been facing mounting competition due to the rise of Reliance Industries’ streaming platform, JioCinema, led by Asia’s wealthiest individual, Mukesh Ambani. Ambani has promoted his streaming platform by offering free access to the Indian Premier League cricket tournament, whose digital rights were previously held by Disney.

Disney’s India streaming operations, which had the largest user base globally last year, reported a loss of $41.5 million on revenue of $390 million for the fiscal year ending in March 2022, as per their last disclosed results. Disney’s strategy to counter this has included offering free cricket content on smartphones in the hope of increasing advertising revenue and offsetting the impact of subscriber attrition. Research firm CLSA estimated that Disney+Hotstar lost nearly 5 million subscribers in India after losing the digital rights to IPL.

Reliance’s broadcast venture, Viacom18, which operates JioCinema, also secured a deal with Warner Bros in April for content such as HBO and popular shows like Succession. Many of these highly-rated shows had previously aired in India on the Disney platform.

Notably, Viacom18’s shareholders include Reliance, Paramount Global, and Bodhi Tree, a joint venture involving James Murdoch and former Star India executive Uday Shankar.

Disney’s India business includes the Disney+ Hotstar streaming service and Star India, which Disney acquired when it purchased the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox in 2019. Star India, rebranded as Disney Star last year, encompasses numerous TV channels and a stake in a movie production company.

Similar to other players in the streaming and media industry, Disney is implementing cost-cutting measures in response to economic challenges that have affected advertising revenue and subscriber growth. In February, Disney announced plans to eliminate 7,000 jobs as part of a broader effort to achieve $5.5 billion in cost savings through a significant restructuring of the company.

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