Europe's RTL, India's Reliance Broadcast End Joint Venture

Anke Schaferkordt, co-CEO of RTL Group
Anke Schaferkordt, co-CEO of RTL Group
 RTL Group

Reliance Broadcast Networks has ended its three-year joint venture with European broadcasting major RTL. The venture was running action channel Big RTL Thrill here. The split follows the January dissolution of a similar three-year venture with CBS, which ran three channels.

Big RTL Thrill will now be rebranded as Big Thrill and will operate along with its sister channel, Big Magic, which offers comedy content.

In May, RBNL bought out RTL’s stake in the equal joint venture. RBNL's exit from its alliances with international partners signals a move toward more regional content. Big Thrill will soon replace its international content with locally developed shows, RBNL CEO Tarun Katial was quoted stating in local media reports. “We will now invest in regional content by the end of the year, and hope to add local male action content and are looking for concepts,” he said.

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The company is also focusing on its regional Big Magic branded channels targeting various Indian states, such as Bihar, Punjab and Jharkhand.

While RTL may have exited India, the group has an Asian presence via a joint venture with CBS. Singapore-based RTL CBS Asia Entertainment was launched last year, offering two channels targeting 29 territories across the region.

RBNL is part of the Reliance ADAG conglomerate headed by Anil Ambani which is equal partners with DreamWorks. Recently, R-ADAG's other group company, film services venture Reliance MediaWorks, merged with Mumbai-headquartered VFX powerhouse Prime Focus. The two companies claimed that the merger would create the world's largest media services player, employing more than 5,500, with operations in the U.S., U.K., Canada, China and Singapore, besides India. Unconfirmed reports in local media have also hinted that Reliance MediaWorks may be looking at hiving off its theatrical venture, Big Cinemas, which is India's third-largest cinema chain, operating 280 screens. New Delhi-headquartered PVR Ltd. is the largest cinema player, with more than 444 screens.

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Meanwhile, Anil's elder brother Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries is making an aggressive entry in the media and entertainment space. RIL recently acquired Viacom's Indian partner, leading media conglomerate Network18, for $680 million. The group's wide-ranging ventures spanning broadcasting, film, digital and print, among others, include MTV India, Vh1 India, Comedy Central, Nick India, flagship Hindi entertainment channel Colors and film banner Viacom18 Motion Pictures.

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