Disney-Reliance Deal: Why Bob Iger should follow Murdoch’s lead and cash out
A new class of competition is disrupting legacy media in the world’s most-populous nation, leading to a second change in the ownership of a popular franchise in four years. Rupert Murdoch was the first to see the threat. Now it’s Bob Iger’s turn.
The Walt Disney Co. boss is nearing a multi-billion-dollar deal to sell his Indian operations, Bloomberg News reported this week. In 2019, Iger was the buyer, and Murdoch the seller. The Star India business came to Disney as part of a $71 billion global acquisition of 21st Century Fox Inc.’s entertainment assets. Even that transaction had a lot to do with India.
Murdoch received a warning shot when an upstart — Facebook Inc. — turned up at a 2017 Indian cricket league auction with a $600 million bid for streaming rights. Star saw off the threat by paying $2.55 billion for television and web for five years, but the writing was on the wall — the internet was coming for sports programming, the crown jewel of appointment viewing. Three months later, the Australian-born media mogul struck a deal with Iger. The transaction closed after about 15 months.
This time, the challenger is not Mark Zuckerberg, but Mukesh Ambani. In 2017, the Indian tycoon’s fledgling 4G telco was just starting to disrupt the wireless industry with free voice calls and cheap data