CBS confirms BIG deal in India


CBS Corporation and Reliance Broadcast Network Limited (RBNL) have formally announced the joint venture in India reported here back in June when RBNL made a filing with the Bombay Stock Exchange. The television joint venture now has a name: BIG CBS Networks Pvt. Ltd. 

The 50/50 joint venture will, at its start, create three new TV channels in India, one of the world’s fastest-growing television markets, and across the Indian subcontinent. The trio will be English language entertainment channels customized for the Indian market, and will premier in Q4 of 2010, offering audiences immediate access to new and current CBS and CW programs, including some of the US networks’ most popular shows.

The wide range of popular CBS/CW (and CBS syndicated) content to be offered by the new Indian channels will include new series such as “Hawaii Five-0,” “The Defenders” and “Blue Bloods,” as well as current hits such as “NCIS,” “Survivor,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “90210,” “America’s Next Top Model” and “Entertainment Tonight.”

The channels will also draw from 70,000 hours of content from CBS’s vast program library, including the original “Melrose Place,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Frasier,” “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Charmed,” to name a few. 

In addition, the joint venture will also acquire content from third-party suppliers and will consider producing some of its own original English language programming for the channels in the future.

The three new channels will be made available across a network of digital and analog distribution platforms. They will also be offered to audiences across the Indian subcontinent covering India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Pakistan.  The themed channels will be targeted to India’s fast-growing, upwardly mobile population and branded BIG CBS Prime, a premium English language general entertainment channel; BIG CBS Spark, India’s first-ever English language youth channel; and BIG CBS Love, India’s first-ever English language entertainment channel for women.

“We are proud to announce our joint venture with CBS, America’s leading television broadcaster.  This is truly a landmark moment not just for us but the entire Reliance ADA Group, with our first step into the television broadcasting space.  We see great opportunity in the Indian television industry which projects high growth rate, and we are confident that our deep understanding of the Indian consumer’s entertainment requirement and advertiser needs, coupled with CBS’ reputation for creating superior content, will offer unmatched and pioneering entertainment to audiences in India and across the Indian subcontinent,” said Tarun Katial, CEO, Reliance Broadcast Network Ltd.

RBNL is part of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group controlled by multi-billionaire Anil Ambani. RBNL is making this big move into television through BIG CBS after success in radio with its 92.7 Big FM operating in 44 Indian cities, plus Singapore.

“Reliance is an international media and entertainment powerhouse and the perfect partner for CBS to expand further into India,” said Armando Nuñez, President, CBS Studios International.  “The vast programming, production and media resources of our two companies position us extremely well to serve audiences, advertisers and all constituents of these new channels.  This is an exciting alliance with potential for amazing synergies and new opportunities for our companies in one of the world’s most dynamic business and media markets.”

RBR-TVBR observation: As we noted previously, over half of the households in India now have a television and that percentage is growing every day. The marketplace is huge, with more than 1.1 billion people in India alone, before adding in the surrounding countries where BIG CBS will also be deployed. And since CBS is repurposing content that already exists for the US market, it’s hard to see where there is any downside to this deal with a well-funded Indian partner.