Three of Viacom’s international brands in India, MTV, Nickelodeon and VH1, will be merged with a new 50:50 joint venture with Television 18. Studio 18, TV 18’s new movie production company, will also be merged with the new venture christened Viacom-18.
Unveiling the joint venture, media giant Viacom’s President and CEO Philippe Dauman, said the partnership between the two companies in India would straddle digital media, broadcasting and films.
Viacom-18’s agenda will include the launch of a Hindi language general entertainment channel by the end of the year, followed by a few niche brands like Viacom’s comedy channel Spike. Development of digital media, including mobile-based content, would also be a priority, Dauman said at a press conference.
Viacom’s most visible brand in the country has been MTV since the media giant entered a decade ago. With Nickelodeon and VH1 still to make a mark, the company has decided to ramp up its investments and presence in the country through the joint venture route.
Giving priority to the Indian market also emerged on Viacom’s radar after Dauman took over from Tom Freston as President and CEO in September 2006.
"India is a priority market. We aim to become the largest media player in the country," Dauman said. However, the size of the investments in the joint venture or its complicated structure were not spelt out in full either by Viacom’s Dauman or TV-18’s MD, Raghav Behl.
For instance, a film management company with 50:50 participation by Viacom and TV-18 will manage the film fund and production house set up by TV-18 called Studio 18. Viacom’s Hollywood studios, Paramount and Dreamworks, would provide technical help and distribution, but would not invest in the Hindi film production projects, Dauman clarified.
Answering questions, Behl said TV-18’s news business would not be part of the Viacom-18 venture, but clarified that "all filmed entertainment and non-news broadcast initiatives by the two partners would be part of the joint venture".
He dismissed speculation that there were too many channels choking the broadcasting space, and said the Viacom-TV18 venture was part of the "second wave of the broadcast revolution".
Dauman, answering a question, said Viacom’s structure would be redefined after the Viacom-18 board was set up. "The board will select its new members," he said.