In one of the biggest deals in the media industry, Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) on Thursday said it will acquire control in Network 18 Media & Investments Ltd, including its subsidiary TV18 Broadcast Ltd.
The board of RIL approved funding of up to Rs. 4,000 crore to Independent Media Trust (IMT), of which RIL is the sole beneficiary, for acquisition of control in Network 18 and its subsidiaries, the company said in a statement.
CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai will proceed on long leave shortly. The buzz in the Network 18 group is that he may not return. A high-profile TV anchor with a prominent media house is believed to be in discussions with Network 18 to join but the negotiations are stuck over the anchor’s demand for a stake in Network 18, sources in knowledge of the developments said.
This same high profile anchor is also holding parallel talks with a leading Hindi channel to head its proposed English news channel. He has reportedly been offered a sizeable stake in the proposed venture.
Two senior executives on Network 18, B.Sai Kumar, CEO, and Ajay Chacko, COO, had recently resigned. CNN-IBN international affairs editor Suhasini Haidar is set to join The Hindu.
Network18 has a significant presence in news and entertainment channels, movie production, print media and also digital--both e-commerce and content. Source in the group said, the content could be loaded on to the Reliance Jio's 4G service and bundled as promotional package, initially and then turned into a chargeable service later.
A mail sent to RIL seeking additional comments remained unanswered at the time of going to print.
“IMT would use the funds to acquire control over NW18 and TV18 resulting in ownership of about 78 per cent in NW18 and 9 per cent in TV18 and to acquire shares tendered in the open offers,” the Reliance statement added.
NW18 is also the owner of IBNLive.com, Moneycontrol.com, Firstpost.com, Cricketnext.in, Homeshop18.com, Bookmyshow.com; the broadcast channels include Colors, CNN-IBN, CNBC TV18, IBN7, CNBC Awaaz.
In another development in the media industry, Shekhar Gupta is rumoured to be quitting Indian Express as editor-in-chief and is likely to join the India Today group as editorial director.