JioCinema, Voot merger in final stage as cos await IPL end

NEW DELHI : The merger between Viacom18 Media Pvt Ltd-owned video streaming app Voot and JioCinema is in the final stages, said three people in the know. The company is waiting for the Indian Premier League (IPL) season to conclude, and may announce the merger by May end, they added. “The back-end has already been unified and currently it is pushing content to two separate platforms. It’s only a matter of time before Voot folds up,” said one of the three people seeking anonymity.

While JioCinema has rolled out a premium pricing plan for 999 a year, offering only premium English language content behind a paywall, sachet-style packs are also being considered, he added.

Viacom18 did not respond to Mint’s queries.

Last September, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) had approved the amalgamation of Jio Cinema with Viacom18. Further, the company had won the digital rights for the IPL for 23,757 crore.

Jio Studios, owned by Reliance Industries, may invest as much as 2,200 crore to create a repertoire of 100 movies and web originals to boost business and retain customer engagement after the end of the tournament. In such a scenario, the Voot library will bring in more mass-market audiences on the back of a strong catch-up TV programming slate from Viacom18-owned linear TV channels. Moreover, Reliance and Viacom18 tied up with James Murdoch and Uday Shankar-backed ’s Bodhi Tree Systems, an investment platform, which will put in 4,306 crore in Viacom18 as the first tranche of a 13,500 crore investment.

Reliance Industries group entities, meanwhile, will put in an additional 10,839 crore.

Media and entertainment industry experts say Shankar’s presence will further help iron things out for JioCinema.

Karan Taurani, senior vice-president at Elara Capital Ltd said Voot, in itself, has never been a major entity in the Indian OTT market. “Its SVoD (subscription video-on-demand) offering never really took off and the AVoD vertical is also smaller in size as compared to many rivals. However, it will be a positive for JioCinema given the strong line-up of Viacom18’s GEC (general entertainment category) channels,” Taurani said. Post IPL and HBO content, the platform that is already planning to stream its own movies, could benefit from a roster of TV shows, Taurani said.

Last month, Warner Bros. Discovery and Viacom18 inked a multi-year agreement that made JioCinema the new platform for HBO, Max Original, and Warner Bros. content in India. The deal includes current and future seasons of HBO’s series such as House of The Dragon, The Last of Us, Succession and The White Lotus, and returning seasons of True Detective: Night Country, Euphoria, Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty and Perry Mason.

“This is the Hotstar and SonyLIV playbook—to start with sports or a large AVoD offering to establish a customer base and then help migrate it to subscriptions over a period of time,” Uday Sodhi, senior partner at Kurate Digital Consulting pointed out.

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Updated: 21 May 2023, 10:30 PM IST

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