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Anil Ambani forms equal joint venture with CBS for small-screen debut
Billionaire Anil Ambani’s Reliance Media World will form an equal joint venture with iconic American media company CBS Corporation to launch a potentially disruptive network of television channels under the brand BIG CBS, a person familiar with the development said. The companies have reached an agreement on the JV and an announcement is expected to be made this week.

There is no restriction on foreign investment in TV channels, except in news. Reliance Media World is a Mumbai-listed company belonging to the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG).

The joint venture will start operations from January next year and will launch a slew of channels, starting with those featuring syndicated content from CBS, which owns several hit shows such as NCIS, The Young and the Restless, CSI and America’s Top Model, as well as sitcoms such as Two and a Half Men.

The JV will eventually enter the Hindi general entertainment space, which corners most of the television ad revenues. The company will launch movie channels as well as regional entertainment channels, but won’t enter the news space, the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.

Reliance Media World operates FM station BIG 92.7. On May 10, the company informed the stock exchanges that it has sought shareholder approval for a change of name to Reliance Broadcast Network to better reflect the upcoming changes in its business. It has also sought permission for an unspecified increase in authorised share capital, an issue of preference shares up to Rs 500 crore, a QIP issue of up to Rs 300 crore, and an issue of securities in the international markets up to Rs 300 crore.

Host of media MNCs in India

For the year ended March 31, Reliance Media World reported a net loss of Rs 76.13 crore while total income was Rs 180 crore. Once the joint venture is finalised, Reliance Media World will continue to run the radio business and will have a 50% interest in the TV broadcast unit.

CBS will join a clutch of multinational media companies with interest in India’s burgeoning media and entertainment space, which has registered strong double-digit growth for several years till last year, and was estimated to be a $12.3-billion (Rs 58,700 crore) industry in 2009 by consultant KPMG.

Other multinational entertainment majors doing business in India include The Walt Disney Co, Bloomberg, Viacom, News Corp, and Time Warner. Several others, such as Reuters and CNBC, have syndication and branding arrangements. Format owners such as Fremantle Media and Endemol have been doing brisk business in recent years, with the popularity of reality shows surging.

However, India has sometimes proved to be a difficult market for global entertainment majors to navigate, with a regulatory environment sensitive to foreign investment, diverse consumers with fickle loyalties to content genres, and a distribution system that can hurt a company’s margins. Viacom’s majority owner, billionaire Sumner Redstone, is also the majority owner of CBS.

Senior ADAG executive Amitabh Jhunjhunwala led the negotiations with CBS executives in New York and Los Angeles last month, the person said. Mr Jhunjhunwala and RMW CEO Tarun Katiyal could not be reached for comment. A spokesperson of ADAG declined comment for this story.

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NEW YORK — CBS Corp. and India’s Reliance Media World are in advanced talks about a TV joint venture that would focus on the launch of English-language channels in India.

If a deal is finalized, it would be the latest to push a U.S. media giant into the fast-growing country that many in the industry have targeted.

CBS declined comment.

While talks are advanced, an announcement is likely still at least a few weeks away.

The discussions are focused on forming a 50-50 joint venture to establish English-language, CBS-branded channels on Reliance’s DTH satellite TV platform in India and sell them to other cable and satellite distributors in the region.

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but when will they launch channels
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