India's Reliance JV strikes content streaming deal with Warner Bros
By Aditya Kalra
NEW DELHI (Reuters) -The broadcast venture of India's Reliance has struck a deal with Warner Bros Discovery Inc. for its streaming platform JioCinema, making a big push to bring Hollywood content onto the platform and compete against Netflix and Amazon.
The deal between Reliance's Viacom18 would see Warner Bros as well as its HBO content becoming available on Reliance's JioCinema app, including popular movies and shows such as Succession, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series, according to a joint statement by the companies.
Reuters had reported the deal earlier on Thursday, quoting sources.
Shares of Network18 Media and Investments, Reliance Industries' media entity, rose as much as 13.5% after the Reuters report.
The sources did not disclose the financials of the deal, but the statement described the content partnership as a "new multi-year agreement" which will start next month.
"HBO Original, Max Original and Warner Bros. Television series are set to premiere on JioCinema on the same day as the U.S.," the companies said.
Clement Schwebig, President for India, Southeast Asia and Korea for Warner Bros, said the agreement was part of its commitment to the South Asia market, as the company looks to further strengthen the scale of its regional business.
One source told Reuters that the partnership would be exclusive and see most of Warner's marquee content on the JioCinema platform. Warner cannot offer most of its popular titles to other Indian rivals including Amazon Prime Video and Disney Hotstar, the source added.
"It's a deep exclusive arrangement which will make JioCinema the house of Warner, HBO in India," the source said.
The content deal will bring thousands of hours of streaming content onto JioCinema, which has become popular for showing the IPL cricket tournament on the platform for free in the ongoing season.
Viacom18 won the IPL digital streaming rights from 2023 to 2027 for around $2.9 billion, rights which Disney previously held. Viacom18's shareholders include Reliance, Paramount Global as well as Bodhi Tree, which is a joint venture between James Murdoch and a former Star India executive, Uday Shankar.
Bodhi Tree recently invested $528 million in Viacom18.
Several of HBO's top rated shows, including Succession, had aired in India on the Disney Hotstar platform until March 31 as part of a deal between the two companies that ended on the date.
The source told Reuters that Warner so far had various arrangements with Indian streaming giants, but the Viacom-Warner deal will see consolidation of that library and will include HBO, Max and Warner content, among others.
JioCinema is seeking to compete with rivals including Netflix and Amazon in a market where such platforms are becoming increasingly popular, thanks to cheap data prices.
"These marquee deals from IPL to HBO are great for not only user acquisition but also for stickiness and mind share," said Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint Research.
For now, JioCinema is a small player. Netflix outperforms rivals in the subscription video-on-demand market, commanding a 39% share by revenue in 2021 compared to nearest rival Hotstar's 23%, according to Media Partners Asia.
(Reporting by Aditya Kalra; Additional reporting by Munsif Vengattil and Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Simon Cameron-Moore)