Reliance Industries in talks with Disney for major cricket-focused media merger in India

Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries (RIL) is reportedly engaged in discussions with Walt Disney Co to execute a transformative move that could reshape the Indian media landscape. The talks revolve around merging their media operations, envisioning the absorption of Disney’s Star India into a newly-formed unit of Reliance’s Viacom18 through a share swap deal in January.

In this potential arrangement, Reliance is poised to secure a 51% stake in the Viacom18 unit through a cash payment, while Disney would retain a 49% stake. The governance structure of the unit’s board is expected to feature equal representation from both entities, fostering a collaborative decision-making process.


Earlier valuations by Bloomberg suggested Disney’s India assets, including the Disney Hotstar streaming service and Star India, to be in the range of $7 billion to $8 billion, while Disney valued them at $10 billion. This merger discussion underscores Reliance’s strategic initiative to fortify its position in the Indian media market.

Reliance’s Viacom18, the force behind JioCinema, has become a formidable player in the streaming landscape, intensifying competition among digital platforms. Mukesh Ambani’s strategic marketing acumen was evident as JioCinema garnered attention by providing free access to the IPL cricket tournament, a major draw for Indian audiences. This move was particularly noteworthy as digital rights for IPL were previously held by Disney.

This potential merger holds significance for Disney Star, grappling with a decline in subscriber numbers post the loss of IPL streaming rights. While Disney Star maintains television rights for cricket until 2027, it explored various options, including discussions with Adani, Sun TV Network owner Kalanithi Maran, and private equity firm Blackstone.