Disney to reach 100mn viewers in India with UTV acquisition

Rebecca Hawkes ©RapidTVNews | 01-02-2012

Walt Disney is to acquire a controlling interest in Indian media conglomerate, UTV Software Communications Ltd, following a successful delisting offer, the US entertainment giant has announced.
As expected, UTV chief executive officer Ronnie Screwvala has been named managing director of the Walt Disney Company India, and will report to Andy Bird, chairman, Walt Disney International.
Through the acquisition, Disney expects to reach over 100 million viewers a week in India: UTV’s TV productions are distributed in 20 countries in seven languages and across 27 channels, while its broadcast network is also popular in India.
The mobile gaming company Indiagames is also part of the UTV portfolio, which will also hand Disney what it calls a ‘significant presence in digital media’.
“Increasing our brand presence and reach in key international markets is a cornerstone of our growth strategy. This acquisition expands our footprint significantly and allows us to more effectively build, monetise and brand multi-platform franchises, and deliver a rich library of content to the world’s second largest population,” said Andy Bird.
“We couldn’t be more pleased that Ronnie, with his vast experience and proven track record, will now run our operations in India. Under his leadership, we will be able to deliver more programming on more platforms to this considerable audience,” he added.
Ronnie Screwvala added: “In combining the creative capabilities of each company, we will integrate a large stable of vibrant brands and franchises in the branded entertainment space. With the middle class expected to grow from 50 million to more than 500 million people by 2025, this market offers huge potential for us to deliver quality branded entertainment to consumers.”
Disney Channel, Disney XD and Hungama are all owned and operated in India by Disney, which also claims to be the largest retail character licensor in the country. In addition, Club Penguin, Disney’s interactive world for children launched in India in 2010, and is among the digital content produced in India by the US company.
In December, the Indian Government approved the acquisition - which will set Disney back a reported INR 20.13 billion (3.08 million euro).
Disney previously held a 50.44% stake in UTV, and announced its intention to purchase the remaining stake from public shareholders and company promoters on 26 July 2011.