Reliance Jio Infocomm’s content plans, including the acquisition of original web series and films, appear to be in the slow lane.
Management approval for many proposals is pending till funds are infused into the main business, according to over a dozen people within and outside the company who are familiar with the matter.
“While the content teams and Reliance Studio have shortlisted many concepts and projects, none has been greenlighted by the management yet,” said a top company executive. “We only hear that it is under the management’s consideration.”
Another person familiar with the matter said Reliance is awaiting funds for Jio before it starts making heavy investments in the content business. “The plans are ready and the teams are in place, but the hold-up is in the investments (into Jio),” the person said.
Japan’s SoftBank is said to be considering a $2-3 billion invest-ment in Jio as owner Mukesh Ambani looks to deleverage business by selling stakes in the telco. After the demerger of its tower and fibre operations into two units, Jio’s net debt stood at Rs 67,000 crore as of March 31, 2019.
The delay in Jio’s content business comes as the video-streaming market in India heats up with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar and ZEE5 increasing their investments in developing original shows locally. The video-streaming boom has been facilitated by Jio, which disrupted the telecom sector with its entry in September 2016, offering affordable data plans and faster speeds.
“Jio reiterates its commitment towards curating, developing and commissioning the best of content in order to enrich the digital life of every Indian and has been taking regular steps that showcase its commitment,” a Jio spokesperson said. “Any suggestions to the contrary are mere falsehoods and a figment of the imagination of vested interests and should not be given any credence.”
Jio’s plan is to generate original content in a big way to keep its over 300 million consumers hooked on exclusively to its services. The telco had stitched deals with Hotstar and with broadcasters and content right owners for films and TV content. Its JioTV and Jio Cinema apps offer most TV channels and many Hindi, regional and Disney films.
Jio had entered into a deal with Siddharth Roy Kapur’s Kapur Films in 2017 to curate, develop, commission and creatively produce original digital video content for the Jio platform. The deal included series, long-form and short-form content across genres and, over time, ‘first on Jio’ feature films.
The big bang originals plan included launch of close to 10 shows starting mid-2019. However, none of the shows or films are ready so far. But some people say that many shows are in pre-production state.
Jio also set up a studio under Jyoti Deshpande, former executive director of Eros International, for content production. The company hired Ajit Thakur, former head of Trinity Pictures, a part of Eros International, to head Jio Studio.
Jio’s parent company Reliance Industries owns controlling stakes in Network18 Media, TV18 Broadcast and Viacom18. It also owns 24.9% in Balaji Telefilms and 5% in Eros International.―Gadgets Now