Viacom18-JioCinema to be New India Home for HBO, Max Original and Warner Bros. Content

Warner Bros. Discovery and Viacom18 have revealed a multi-year agreement making JioCinema India’s new streaming home for HBO, Max Original and Warner Bros. content from May.

The WBD content had previously been carried on the Disney-owned Star TV platform. But the deal with Star expired at the end of March. WBD sources have confirmed that, except for a handful of shows licensed to third parties, HBO content has been absent from Indian airwaves since the beginning of the month.

The new deal is another major victory for Mukesh Ambani, one of India’s richest and most politically influential businessmen. His Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) is behind Viacom18 and the JioCinema streaming platform, as well as India’s dominant cellular phone and broadband internet providers.

Television series will premiere on JioCinema on the same day as the U.S. The deal includes current and future seasons of HBO’s “House of The Dragon,” “The Last of Us,” “Succession” and “The White Lotus,” and returning seasons of “True Detective: Night Country,” “Euphoria,” “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” and “Perry Mason.”

Also featured as part of the agreement are HBO original series including “The Idol,” “White House Plumbers,” “The Sympathizer” and “The Regime” and library titles “Game of Thrones,” “Sex & The City,” “Big Little Lies,” “Chernobyl” and “Veep.”

Max Original series including “And Just Like That…,” “Peacemaker” and “The Flight Attendant,” premieres such as “Dune: The Sisterhood,” “The Batman” spinoff “The Penguin” and “Duster,” from J.J. Abrams and LaToya Morgan, as well Warner Bros. Television series like “East New York” and “Gotham Knights” are also part of the deal.

Clement Schwebig, president, India, Southeast Asia, and Korea, Warner Bros. Discovery, said: “Warner Bros. Discovery’s brands are incredibly popular across India and we are pleased to partner with Viacom18 to bring our premium HBO, Max Original and Warner Bros. content to local fans. This new agreement demonstrates our commitment to South Asia as we seek to entertain audiences across more platforms, and further strengthens the scale of our regional business as a whole.”

Ferzad Palia, head, SVOD and international business, Viacom18, added: “JioCinema has become the biggest platform for live sports. We are now on a mission to build the most magnetic destination for entertainment for all Indians. The strategic partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery is a big milestone in our journey to offer the best of Hollywood content to our elite consumers. We believe that Warner Bros. Discovery sets the global standards for premium content and this partnership allows us to create the best and the most comprehensive destination for our users.”

Last year, Viacom18 agreed to pay $3 billion to win an online auction for two packages of digital rights to Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket. (Variety understands that Viacom18 has agreed to pay $2.63 billion for a five year package of regional digital rights. It also successfully bid an additional $417 million for what was billed as a non-exclusive package covering 98 matches over five years including tournament openers, playoffs, finals and selected evening games.) Walt Disney, which has held the TV and digital rights to IPL for the past five seasons, won only the broadcast TV rights, but agreed to pay $3.01 billion for them.

Both the IPL and Warner content wins increase RIL’s leverage to change the Indian broadcasting landscape, to the tip the balance even further in favor of streaming and to undermine Disney’s position in the world’s most populous nation.

JioCinema, which aggregates content from suppliers including AltBalaji, Eros Now, Paramount, Shemaroo Entertainment and Viacom18, currently operates as an ad-supported operation. It is tipped to start charging subscription fees later this year.

The IPL tournament is now underway with JioCinema playing it in a free of charge, ad-supported fashion, while Star offers the same games (with ads) behind a paywall.

JioCinema has also begun upping its own film and TV production efforts. Earlier this month it unveiled a slate of 100 pieces of content in Hindi and a wide range of Indian regional languages.

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