Relativity Media & B4U forge broad partnership

MUMBAI: Another large US independent global film and TV production studio-cum-distributor-cum financier is making its way into India. At least it has announced its intentions to do so. The Ryan Kavanaugh headed Relativity Media – which has 200 Hollywood films with a claimed box office revenue of $17 billion worldwide- has chosen to partner with steel baron Lakshmi Mittal-Kishore Lulla-Gokul Binani -backed B4U in a joint venture.  The announcement was made in Cannes by Kavanaugh and B4U CEO Ishan Saksena just as the week was ending and the Cannes Film Festival was going past the half way mark.

The joint venture will - according to a press release – “leverage their combined expertise, relationships and resources to create and distribute highly-engaging long and short form entertainment and sports content in India that will span a variety of mediums including film, television and digital."

It clearly elucidates what the duo will do through the new initiative:

·Distribute future Relativity films and other select entertainment content in India and the surrounding regions

·Co-finance, co-produce and distribute Indian language films and television shows as well as acquire projects in the U.S. and Indian markets

·Distribute third-party content in India and select Bollywood films in the U.S.

·Create and launch a new pay television channel in India focused on Hollywood content in both English and Hindi

·Launch RelaTV– a digital streaming technology platform to deliver compelling short and long form content to Indian consumers

·Co-produce a slate of Hollywood films including The Best of Me

Around $100 million will be available to the joint venture to roll out its ambitions.

But Hollywood-Bollywood collaborations have not been something to write home about. UTV tried to forge partnerships with Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment and with M Night Shyamalan but did not get too far. Reliance Entertainment’s partnership with Dreamworks has done reasonably well. The YRF Entertainment co-produced  - withPierre-Ange Le Pogam and writer Arash Amel - Grace of Monaco premiered at the Cannes Film Festival  last week, but has got scathing reviews as being poorly directly and scripted.

Both Kavanaugh and Saksena believe their coming together will be fruitful. Says Kavanaugh:  “This strategic partnership represents an exciting opportunity for Relativity to significantly expand our presence in this vibrant and growing marketplace while creating a bridge for developing and sharing content between Hollywood and Bollywood."

"By 2020, India is set to become the world's youngest country, and its citizens are adopting new technology platforms  – from smartphones to smart TVs – at a dramatic rate. Thejoint venture positions us well to deliver enthralling content across rapidly emerging distribution channels."

Added Saksena: "B4U has always been at the helm for delivering Bollywood content in India and internationally.  This joint venture with Relativity is the natural step in our progression to build a creative film studio and unique technology platform.  Our joint venture provides a platform to bring the best of Relativity's intellectual property, production skills, and unique monetizing strategies to India, while also providing Indian talent access to global audiences."

The $100 million fund will be under Saksena’s management who is reportedely close to Mittal’s son-in-law Amit Bhatia and is a managing director at  the latter’s  investment company Swordfish Investments. He worked very closely with Bhatia and helped him turn around the Queens Park Rangers football club in 2010.

Thanks to Lulla’s involvement with B4U, the joint venture is likely to have access to the Eros International’s  large Hindi film catalogue – probably the largest for Indian films. Which should help it build up the pay television channel  and streaming media service – RelaTV - for India along with Relativity Media’s slate  of films and TV shows. Lulla has in recent times forged alliances with HBO for two local pay TV channels – HBO Hits and HBO defined – and with Endemol for production of films in India.

Saksena – who has had experience managing Queens’ Parks Rangers – will in all probability be bringing all that to bear on the sports side as he tries to get the best expertise out of Relativity Sports.

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