Warner Bros. Discovery has partnered with Mukesh Ambani-backed Viacom18 to bring HBO and other WB content to India in a major win for the Reliance joint venture’s service that is increasingly winning mindshare from rivals including Disney’s Hotstar, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
HBO Original, Max Original and other Warner Bros. television series will arrive on JioCinema next month and will air shows “on the same day as the U.S.,” Warner Bros. and Viacom18 said in a statement.
The “exclusive” content deal is a major win for JioCinema, which has courted tens of millions of users in recent weeks thanks to streaming of the IPL cricket tournament in the country for free to anyone with an internet connection. Viacom18 last year outbid Disney to secure five years of IPL’s streaming rights for the Indian subcontinent region with a sum of $3 billion.
Viacom18 is a joint venture between Ambani’s Reliance and Paramount Global and also counts James Murdoch’s Bodhi Tree as an investor. Bodhi Tree earlier this month slashed its planned investment into Viacom18 to $528 million, down 70% from the committed $1.78 billion. Bodhi Tree plans to increase its stake in Viacom18, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Reliance, which owns a majority of Viacom18, said earlier this month that it’s contributing $1.32 billion to Viacom18, up from the planned $216 million.
The Thursday deal is a blow to Disney, whose Hotstar app won customers on the back of cricket popularity and premium content from HBO.
JioCinema has poached aggressively from Hotstar in recent months. The firm recently also appointed former Disney executive Kevin Vaz as Viacom18 CEO.
“JioCinema has become the biggest platform for live sports. We are now on a mission to build the most magnetic destination for entertainment for all Indians,” said Ferzad Palia, Head – SVOD & International Business, Viacom18, in a statement.
“The strategic partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery is a big milestone in our journey to offer the best of Hollywood content to our elite consumers. We believe that Warner Bros. Discovery sets the global standards for premium content and this partnership allows us to create the best and the most comprehensive destination for our users.”
Industry analysts were widely expecting Amazon, which offers a number of on-demand video streaming services in India, to tie-up with Warner Bros. for HBO content. Amazon is also currently in advanced stages of deliberations to acquire MX Player, a popular video streaming service in India, TechCrunch reported earlier.
With the new content deal in place, JioCinema is slowly moving in the direction where it can start charging users for accessing at least some content.