CNN to End India News Network Licensing Deal

CNN Building - P 2014
AP Images

CNN Building - P 2014

The Turner-owned network will end its 10-year co-branding and content deal with India's TV18 for CNN-IBN in January and evaluate possible next steps in the country.

Time Warner's CNN will end a 10-year branding and content licensing deal in India for the CNN-IBN news channel run by India's TV18 in January 2016, the companies said Monday.

CNN-IBN was launched as an English-language news channel in 2005 by TV18, owned by leading broadcasting and media group Network18, which entered into a licensing agreement with CNN parent Turner International for the CNN name and content from the global news network.

The end of the CNN-TV18 partnership "will enable each company thereafter to chart its own growth trajectory independently," the companies said.

Last year, India's richest tycoon Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries acquired Network18 for $680 million via an affiliate. Ambani's younger brother Anil runs the Reliance ADAG group, which is the partner of DreamWorks.

Network18 also runs Viacom18, a joint venture with Viacom, which in India has such brands as MTV India, VH1 India, Comedy Central, Nick India and flagship Hindi entertainment channel Colors, among others. The joint venture runs film banner Viacom18 Motion Pictures.

"We are very proud to have created CNN-IBN in our decade-long partnership with TV18," CNN chief commercial officer Rani Raad said. "The channel was a pioneering initiative that combined the best of CNN's global expertise with TV18's journalistic and newsgathering capabilities. We have truly valued this long-standing partnership."

As for CNN's future plans for India, given government regulations that bar foreign news networks from majority ownership of an Indian news channel, CNN will have to explore other options.

Asked by The Hollywood Reporter about CNN's India plans, Raad says, "CNN remains deeply committed to long-term participation in India, one of the world's largest and most vibrant media markets. As is the natural course of business, we continue to explore opportunities in India and every other important market around the world."

According to a report in Indian business paper Mint, CNN is "in talks" with leading Indian broadcasting group Zee, though it wasn't clear whether the two companies were exploring another licensing deal. In addition to its diversified entertainment channels, the group's Zee News division runs a number of Hindi and regional news channels.

"We do not comment on speculation," Raad tells THR when asked for comment on the report.