Warner Bros. Discovery has found a new partner to bring HBO content to India: Viacom18, backed by Mukesh Ambani.
HBO Original, Max Original and other Warner Bros. TV series are coming to JioCinema next month and will stream shows “on the same day as in the US,” Warner Bros. and Viacom18 said in a statement.
The “exclusive” content deal is a huge win for JioCinema, which has wooed tens of millions of users in recent weeks by streaming the IPL cricket tournament in the country free to anyone with an internet connection. Last year, Viacom18 outbid Disney to secure five years of IPL broadcast rights for the Indian subcontinent region to the tune 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 cut its planned investment in Viacom18 to $528 million, down 70% from the $1.78 billion committed. 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 is contributing $1.32 billion to Viacom18, up from $216 million planned.
Thursday’s deal is a blow to Disney, whose Hotstar app has won customers thanks to the popularity of cricket and HBO’s premium content.
JioCinema has aggressively stolen from Hotstar in recent months. The firm also recently named former Disney executive Kevin Vaz as CEO of Viacom18.
“JioCinema has become the largest live sports platform. Now we are on a mission to build the most magnetic entertainment destination for all Indians,” Ferzad Palia, Viacom18 director of SVOD and international business, said in a statement.
“The strategic partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery is a huge milestone in our journey to bring 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 most comprehensive destination for our users.”
Industry analysts widely expected Amazon, which offers a number of video-on-demand streaming services in India, to partner with Warner Bros. for HBO content. Amazon is also currently in the advanced stages of deliberations to acquire MX Player, a popular video streaming service in India, TechCrunch previously reported.
With the new content deal in place, JioCinema is slowly moving in the direction where it can start charging users to access at least some of the content.