Viacom 18 Media to launch channel in 2008

MUMBAI: Viacom and Global Broadcast News, a group company of Network18, have completed their 50:50 joint venture Viacom 18 Media in India. The companies announced their plans for the joint venture in May 2007.

As approved by FIPB, BK Holding Mauritius Ltd, a wholly owned TV18 subsidiary, is currently infusing $50.50 million into Viacom18. Additionally, GBN has acquired warrants, convertible into equity shares of Viacom 18 upon the infusion of $ 40 million over the next three years.

Viacom18 will include television, film and digital media content across numerous brands as well as consumer products. Viacom18 will be managed by a six-member Board with equal representation by Viacom and Network18.

Under the new company, a new Hindi-language general entertainment channel will also be launched in India early next year. The service will consist of original, locally produced programming, acquisitions and content from MTV Networks. The joint venture will operate the local networks, MTV, VH1 and Nickelodeon India, of MTV Networks (MTVN), a unit of Viacom.

In the future, Viacom18 will also launch a suite of niche channels from the MTV Networks portfolio, as well as new brands. Digital media content across all the television brands will be developed and distributed to Indian consumers. The joint venture will also syndicate MTVN programming and newly produced content.

Studio18, the Motion Pictures division of Network18, will also be a part of Viacom18 and will continue to produce, acquire and distribute Hindi-language films.

Since GBN is intended to be Network18’s equity shareholder in Viacom18, it has entered into an Option agreement valid for a period of 12 months, pursuant to which GBN would have the option to acquire the entire shareholding of BK Holding Mauritius from TVI8’s subsidiary.

Upon GBN exercising its option to convert the above warrants and on exercising its right under the option agreement, GBN’s shareholding (including indirect holding) in Viacom 18 would aggregate to 50 per cent.

Viacom18 Media Pvt Ltd chairman of the board and MTV Networks International president Robert Bakish said, “This joint venture reinforces our long-term commitment to the Indian market. We look forward to expanding our presence in India with our new partners and are dedicated to providing local audiences with high quality entertainment that is reflective of their culture and the world around them across every screen and for every demographic.”

Network18 managing director Raghav Bahl said, “This is a momentous day that marks the foray of Network18 into the multi-platform entertainment space in India. Viacom’s inherent creativity and Network18’s operational excellence make a potent combination that places Viacom18 in an enviable position in the Indian entertainment space, to entertain India’s burgeoning film and television audiences.”

Shares of GBN gained Rs 19.75, or 2.09 per cent and were trading at Rs 965.50 on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).