CBS teams up with India’s Reliance Media

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Broadcasting giant CBS Corp. is becoming the latest U.S. media company to enter the fast-growing Indian television market, teaming up with a company backed by one of India’s wealthiest men.

CBS announced Wednesday that it had structured a 50-50 joint venture with Anil Dhirubhai Ambani’s Reliance Broadcast Network that initially will launch three English-language channels in India. The pay television channels, which are expected to go on the air in October, will showcase programs that CBS owns, including ‘NCIS,’ ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’ and its eagerly awaited remake of ‘Hawaii Five-0.’


The deal provides CBS with an opportunity to wring more money from its library of older shows, including ‘Melrose Place,’ ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,’ ‘Dynasty’ and ‘Frasier.’

In addition, with the help of Reliance’s television production unit, CBS should be able to create local adaptations of popular shows such as ‘Entertainment Tonight’ and ‘America’s Next Top Model,’ which would become ‘India’s Next Top Model.’

The channels will target India’s younger and more affluent audiences.

Until recently, CBS primarily focused on its domestic operations. It has been looking to expand internationally and last year formed a similar joint venture in Britain with Chellomedia, the European content arm of cable pioneer John Malone’s Liberty Global Inc.

Other media companies, including Sony and News Corp., have been operating in India for more than a decade. Viacom Inc. two years ago entered into a joint venture with an Indian media company to distribute a popular Hindi entertainment channel called Colors. Time Warner Inc.'s Turner and Warner Bros. divisions launched an English-language Warner Bros. channel in India last year.

CBS announced the India joint venture, which will be called Big CBS Networks, during a news conference in Mumbai. The two companies said they would eventually look at forming Hindi channels, which would be more lucrative because they would appeal to a broader audience than English-language channels.

There are an estimated 134 million homes with televisions in India, with more than two-thirds having access to cable or satellite television. Total television revenue was about $5.7 billion last year.

-- Meg James