Relativity Media in Venture With Mittal Bollywood Network

Relativity Media LLC, the U.S. film and television producer run by Ryan Kavanaugh, is entering the Indian market in a $100 million joint venture with a Bollywood network controlled by steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal.

Relativity and B4U will create and distribute local film, TV and digital productions in the growing Indian market, according to a statement today. The venture will also distribute and market Relativity films in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, starting with the romantic drama “The Best of Me” in October.

The partnership targets the growing population of young people watching shows on smartphones, said Kavanaugh, Relativity’s chief executive officer. While producing local fare for India, it also offers the chance to adapt U.S. projects for the distinct Bollywood market, he said in an interview with B4U CEO Ishan Saksena, who will manage the venture. Eventually, the two seek to shoot versions of films for both markets simultaneously, in one production.

“We are looking at how we take big movies that we make, franchise movies that are known, and shoot at the same time a Bollywood movie and our movie, with both actors on set, so you have some crossover, and shooting two movies in one,” Kavanaugh said. “One for Bollywood and one for the U.S. It’s never been done before.”

India was attractive to Beverly Hills, California-based Relativity because it offers the ability to distribute a range of content with great flexibility, Kavanaugh said. The company is already in China, the world’s fastest-growing movie market, where media is restricted.

Indian Growth

Indian film and TV markets are expected to reach revenue of $3.5 billion and $15.3 billion, respectively, by 2017, the companies said, citing a KPMG study.

The executives met last August in London in an initial meeting that had been scheduled to last one hour. Instead it went on for five hours, with Kavanaugh saying he almost missed his flight back to the U.S.

The talks led to a joint venture that will have access to a $100 million fund, managed by Saksena. The fund will be overseen by a board consisting of two directors from each company. Details of the funding weren’t disclosed.

The partnership will co-produce a slate of Hollywood films, the first of which will be “The Best of Me,” and distribute Relativity projects in India, in addition to making local-language programs for India, acquiring both projects for both the U.S. and Indian markets, and releasing select Bollywood films in the U.S.

Pay TV

The duo will create a new pay television channel in India focused on Hollywood content in both English and Hindi, and launch “RelaTV” – a digital streaming technology platform to deliver compelling short and long-form content to Indian consumers.

In one collaboration, the venture plans to make an Indian version of an upcoming Relativity comedy starring Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis. For India, it will have a Bollywood director and star Bollywood talent.

“A lot will translate into India in and of itself, but a lot of it bodes well to be remade in a way that will be better suited for the Indian audience,” said Kavanaugh.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anousha Sakoui in London at asakoui@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net Mike Millard

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