Jun 25, 2008

Reliance Big Entertainment in JV with the Bachchans

Amid rumors that Anil Ambani's Reliance Big Entertainment is going to help Steven Spielberg buy back DreamWorks studios from Paramount, the company is inked another deal.

Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Big Entertainment (RBE) has inked a joint venture with India’s first family of entertainment — the Bachchans. The JV will focus on creating intellectual property across all entertainment platforms including movies, television content, live shows, mobile and online content. The move will bring talents of the Bachchan family to the venture. A new company is being formed, which will use the expertise of the Bachchans and the financial resources of RBE.

An alliance with the Bachchans will allow RBE to leverage the relationships with the industry that Mr Bachchan, his wife Jaya, son Abhishek and daughter-in-law Aishwarya bring to the table. Speaking to ET, Amitabh Bachchan said: “RBE is a big corporate organisation, and I believe that in the future, creativity and corporate management is the way forward. Hence, in holding hands, we have taken a very progressive step forward.” Members of the family would float an SPV for the joint venture and will provide creative expertise to the new venture, he said, adding that the JV also allows them to hold copyrights of films for perpetuity.

For the Bachchans, an alliance with RBE will help them in terms of funding movie ventures and provide them scale and a platform. The move is not entirely unexpected, considering the strong personal relationship the younger Ambani shares with Mr Bachchan and his family. A six film slate is already being executed which includes movies with directors of the likes of Lowe India chairman R Balakrishnan, better known as Balki, Jhankar Beats-maker Sujoy Ghose, Ramesh Sippy’s son and director of Bluff Master Rohan Sippy and Chanakya television series producer Chandra Prasad Dwivedi, to name a few.

This will also provide RBE first right of refusal with the Bachchans for any project they wish to execute. Reliance Big Entertainment, earlier known as Reliance Entertainment, recently went through a change in its corporate identity, incorporating the company’s entertainment brand ‘Big’ in the mother company as well. Earlier this year, George Soros invested $100 million for a 3% stake in Reliance Big Entertainment, valuing the company at $3.3 billion. It has three main lines of business — Internet & new media, film entertainment and TV broadcasting.

Reliance Entertainment is looking at producing 25-30 movies within the next two years and about 7-8 animation films. Its business units include a movie production business, animation, movie studio, social networking site Bigadda.com, FM radio, movie rentals, online gaming, mobile gaming, home video unit and theme parks. Some of the recent investments made by RBE are in Nitin Desai’s ND Studio, where the company picked up a 50% stake for about Rs 120-150 crore.