Television

Star India snaps up Screen; News Corp to acquire VCCircle

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MUMBAI: Its maw appears to be insatiable.  Close on the heels of acquiring Telugu network Maa Television for around Rs 700 crore-1000 crore (media reports place the transaction at Rs 2,000 crore though), Star India has now gone on to gobble up entertainment broadsheet Screen from the Indian Express group.  The 51-year old weekly, which was once a tremendous force to reckon with in the world of entertainment,  has been grappling to find a position with readers over the last decade.

A Star India release says that the “acquisition will create a definitive multimedia film and entertainment franchise.”

The deal allows it to exclusively own the Screen franchise, covering the weekly, and its Screen Awards,  all the archival material and key employees. Editor Priyanka Sinha Jha – who is wedded to film-maker turned author Piyush Jha – will continue to lead the Screen editorial team.

Certain reports have indicated that Screen will stop coming out in its print avatar from next week and it will be integrated with its hotstar.com app which has been witnessing a lot of traction over the past few months with its programming fare of TV shows, and sports related content. Screen has a circulation of around 12,000 copies each week.  

The value of the Screen deal has not been disclosed but estimates are that it could be anywhere between Rs 30 crore to Rs 50 crore.

Says an excited Star India CEO Uday Shankar: “Screen is a strong and reputable franchise and gives us access to the entertainment editorial suite and the tinsel world, where news that shapes trends is made by film stars, directors and producers. The acquisition of Screen will allow us to strengthen and expand the content brand online while taking the awards platform to the next level. There are strong synergies and the combination of the quality content and awards franchise with Star’s presence across television and digital platforms is strategic and scalable.”

The Screen acquisition could yield good results for Star India. The publication owns the premier Screen Awards which have been running for the past 21 years.  The televised version of the property churns out an estimated Rs 30 crore from sponsorship of its telecast and through syndication deals annually. But more than that it gives Star India another hook into the world of Indian cinema, which is riddled with star egos.

Star India has in the past acquired the rights  of the Screen Awards for several years since 2000, but surrendered them to Colors for a year before snaring them for Life OK once again this year.

“We are delighted to enter into a transaction with Star India. Screen is one of the most reputed film and entertainment properties in the country. We have built this business with lot of passion and are confident that Star will nurture it and take it to greater heights” said Indian Express group chairman and managing director Viveck Goenka. 

Speaking on the transaction Indian Express CEO George Varghese: “Screen is one of our leading properties on the entertainment side of the business. Our decision was driven by our belief in Star’s focus to grow this business, which we believe would translate into adding value for all stakeholders including employees.”

AZB Partners acted as legal advisors to Star India while BMR Advisors acted as sole financial advisors and BMR Legal acted as legal advisors to the Indian Express Group.

This is not the first time Star India is biting its teeth into an online internet property. In 2001, it had acquired the portal indya.com from Mircoland promoter Pradeep Kar and other investors for Rs 48 crore. The transaction went nowhere and yielded little dividend as the group tried to make sense of the digital ecosystem. It was finally merged with Star India’s online presence as star.indya.com.

Meanwhile News Corp - the sister company of Star India's parent 21st Century Corp - annnounced earlier today that it has signed a definitive agreement ot acquire the VCCircle Network -consisting of  VCCircle.com, Techcircle.in, VCCEdge, VCCircle Training, in addition to a premium-content driven conference business. The terms of the deal were not disclosed but it was expected to close by this month end. The various verticals come under Mosaic Media Ventures with 100 employees across India and are headed by CEO and founder P.V. Sahad who will now become a part of the News Corp India team. He will report to  News Corp's senior vice-president, strategy, Raju Narisetti. The VCCircle acquisition is estimated to be in the vicinity of Rs 60 crore.

In November 2014, News Corp had announced the acquisition of Proptiger - a residential real estate platform, and followed that up with an announcement to take over BigDecisions.com  in December 2014.

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