India’s Eros Eyes $1B Library Sale; Apple, Amazon & Netflix Said In Mix (Reports)

Suitors are said to be lining up for a crack at the film and music content library of India’s largest movie producer, Eros Group. According to reports out of India, Apple is in early stage talks with the prolific company that’s had a hand in such recent Bollywood hits as Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Bajirao Mastani. Amazon and Netflix are also said to be kicking the tires in what would be a potential $1B deal that could include Eros’ streaming platform Eros Now, per The Economic Times.

Eros India has a library of over 3,000 Indian films and is the largest in the country. While some Bollywood stars have stumbled this year, local content is overwhelmingly preferred by moviegoers in a market where box office skews 90% towards homegrown fare. Eros produces about 60 films a year with titles consistently in the Top 10. Eros Now, The ET says, has rights to over 10,000 films, of which about half are owned in perpetuity. It has close to 2.9M paid subscribers and 68M registered users.

The Indian digital landscape is ripe for rapid growth, while the global diaspora is a huge consumer of content from home. Recently, Amazon and Netflix have been stepping up their efforts (and rivalry) in the market.

Amazon has output deals with Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions and with Yash Raj, while its first original Indian series, Inside Edge, began airing last month. The Prime streaming service last week entered a global deal with Bollywood icon Salman Khan’s production company.

Also last week, Netflix, which had earlier pacted with Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment, said it was prepping two new local series which will join its first original, Sacred Games.

Apple appears to be the wildcard here. Breaking Views columnist Una Galani suggests a purchase by Apple “would be unusual” since the Silicon Valley giant “rarely splashes large sums on acquisitions and has largely steered clear of buying content.” However, she allows, “original Indian content is scarce” and rivals are producing their own while other tech majors are making moves in India that they haven’t made elsewhere.

Eros began looking at options for its library about six months ago, a source told Reuters, and had attempted deals with domestic broadcasters including Sony, Star, Viacom and Zee. Deadline has reached out for comment.

Eros is also said to be looking at a “mega restructuring exercise” that would result in a reverse merger of NYSE-listed Eros International into its subsidiary Eros International Media. The multi-layered group includes Eros PLC which also manages offshore film distribution. Eros India is the primary content creator.

Eros International is facing a class action lawsuit for allegedly overstating Eros Now’s subscriber base, Reuters notes. The group has also faced allegations of corporate misgovernance and other irregularities for several years which it has repeatedly denied.

Shares in India-listed Eros International Media jumped nearly 5% on the sale chatter Monday, before losing some of that ground on Tuesday afternoon.

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