CBS has its eye on Indian television


Reliance Broadcast Network (RBN), the owner of the largest radio network in India, announced plans for a joint venture with CBS Corporation to own and operate television channels in India. The planned venture would have 50-50 ownership interests for the two companies.

RBN, which is a publicly traded company until recently known as Reliance Media World, filed notice with the Bombay Stock Exchange of the proposed joint venture (JV) after signing a preliminary, non-binding term sheet with CBS on Sunday (6/20). The parties hope to complete a definitive contract within a month.

According to RBN’s notice to the exchange, the “Business of the JV will initially include English Language general entertainment channels, and the parties will explore owning and/or operating Hindi Language and Regional Language general entertainment channels in the future.” Just how many channels might be developed is not stated, but the notice speaks of “owning and/or operating a portfolio of television channels.”

RBN said the JV would have programming rights covering India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Pakistan in the beginning, with potential expansion to other countries with the mutual consent of the partners.

RBN owns and operates 92.7 Big FM. It currently has transmitters in 44 Indian cities, plus Singapore. Although it uses the name 92.7 Big FM for the entire operation, the stations have programming which is localized for each market.

RBN is part of the empire of Anil Ambani, ranked by Forbes magazine as the 4th wealthiest person in India, with a personal fortune estimated at $13.7 billion. His elder brother, Mukesh, is #1 at $28 billion.

RBR-TVBR observation: With a population of over 1.1 billion people, it is easy to see why CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves would be interested in India. Over half of all households in India now have a television and that figure is continuing to grow.