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NEW DELHI: India’s top conglomerate Reliance Industries and Walt Disney on Wednesday announced the merger of their India TV and streaming media assets, creating an $8.5 billion entertainment juggernaut far ahead of rivals in the world’s most populous nation.

Reliance, led by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, will infuse $1.4 billion in the merged entity, with the company and its affiliates holding a more than 63% stake. Disney will hold about 37%, the companies said in a joint statement.

For Disney, the merger follows its long-drawn struggle to arrest a user exodus from its bleeding India streaming business and financial strain caused by billions of dollars in Indian cricket rights payments. The merger valued the India business of the Burbank-based entertainment giant at just around a quarter of the $15 billion it was valued at when Disney acquired it as part of its Fox deal in 2019, sources have said.

Uday Shankar to be vice chair of India’s merged Reliance-Disney media business

Reliance said Nita Ambani, wife of Reliance boss Mukesh Ambani, would chair the board of combined entity, and former top Disney executive Uday Shankar would serve as vice chair.

Together, the Reliance-Disney merged entity will have 120 TV channels and two streaming platforms, helping Ambani emerge as a bigger, formidable force against rivals such as Japan’s Sony, India’s Zee Entertainment and Netflix in the $28 billion media and entertainment sector.

“The JV will be one of the leading TV and digital streaming platforms for entertainment and sports content in India, bringing together iconic media assets across entertainment,” the companies said in a joint statement.

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