Viacom18 eyes scale in distribution deal with Paramount

MUMBAI: Having built an Rs 11 billion television broadcast empire, Viacom18 is looking at filmed entertainment to shore up its revenues.

The joint venture company between Viacom and TV18 Group has inked a strategic alliance with global movie company Paramount Pictures to market and distribute their movies in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Viacom18 has already ventured into producing Hindi movies and the new deal will help create a distribution network, a crucial chain in the Bollywood business. Around 10-12 Hollywood movies a year from Paramount would provide a constant supply into the distribution pipeline that Viacom18 is erecting.

In the volatile movie world, Viacom18 has tasted success with its first release, Tanu weds Manu. As it prepares for its other releases such as ‘Pyaar ka Panchnama‘ (releasing on 20 May) and Anurag Kashyap‘s ‘Shaitan‘ (10 June), the company realises that it is essential to have de-risked structures.

"Distribution is as important as getting engaged into the business of movie production. A mix of Indian and Hollywood movies would give Viacom18 Motion Pictures a constant supply. This will allow the company to hedge its risks," says a media analyst who closely tracks Bollywood.

TV18 founder-promoter Raghav Bahl needs to be cautious. When he first flirted with the film business through the Aim-listed The Indian Film Company (TIFC), he churned out several hits but could not sustain the momentum as the business model was dependent on high-cost acquisitions.

In an earlier interview with, Viacom18 Motion Pictures COO Vikram Malhotra had said that "the business model of acquisition was fraught with risks" and TIFC "lost more value share than the others".

The first movie to release on 1 July through the alliance is Michael Bay-directed Transformers: Dark of the moon. The other releases from the Paramount slate include Super 8 and Mission Impossible 4.

Says Viacom 18 Group CEO Haresh Chawla, "Filmed Entertainment is core to mass entertainment franchises, like Colors, that we are building at Viacom 18. Viacom 18 Motion Pictures has built up a very strong presence in the movies business in a short span of time and this strategic alliance with a global major like Paramount will open myriad possibilities that will help us further strengthen our presence in this space."

Paramount Pictures International president Andrew Cripps feels the alliance is a "step change" for the Hollywood studio "in one of the fastest growing and most exciting markets internationally".

Cripps says, "Viacom 18 has positioned itself as one of the most impressive players locally in both distribution and production. We are very proud to be associated with them and look forward to continuing to grow and expand Paramount‘s presence in India."  

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