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Raghav Bahl to make TV comeback with Bloomberg

Sources said the media veteran's new venture, The Quintillion Media, which runs online portal The Quint

Urvi Malvania  |  Mumbai 

Raghav Bahl to make TV comeback with Bloomberg

Raghav Bahl, who exited the television business after the sale of Network18 Media Investments in 2014, is set for a comeback.

Sources said the media veteran's new venture, The Quintillion Media, which runs online portal The Quint, was tying up with Bloomberg to develop digital video properties. The two have invested in a joint venture (JV), which will later look at broadcast While the details of the JV are not known, Quintillion Media will hold at least 51 per cent stake in it.

The Quint, online portal by Quintillion Media (currently active), will continue to exist as it is.

The new online portal under the JV is expected to launch in the coming weeks, while the business channel is expected to launch by the end of the current calendar year.

Last week, Bloomberg announced its exit from the licensing partnership it had with Reliance ADAG's Business Broadcast News, effective April 1. The channel run under this joint venture, Bloomberg TV, will be rebranded and re-launched by Reliance, while Bloomberg said it would continue in India with another partner.

E-mails to Bloomberg remained unanswered till the time of going to press as were calls made to Bahl. Bloomberg entered India in 2008 as UTVi, a joint venture with UTV Software, then owned by Ronnie Screwvala. The channel was rebranded Bloomberg UTV in 2009. In 2012, UTV exited from the venture to be replaced by Reliance ADAG, and was renamed Bloomberg TV India.

If Bloomberg intends on returning to television, it will have to limit its shareholding to 49 per cent. Foreign cannot hold more than a 49 per cent stake in a news outfit in India. This shareholding also needs to be approved by the government.

This will be Bahl's re-entry into television news after he exited Network18 in 2014. Bahl founded Network18 in 1993 and operated TV channels, magazines, online portals and e-commerce. Network18 acquired Eenadu TV's bouquet in 2012 for around Rs 2,100 crore.

In May 2014, Independent Media Trust (IMT), a part of Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries, acquired Network18. In 2012, Reliance Industries, through IMT, had extended Rs 1,700 crore loan to Raghav Bahl's investment to ensure he retained stakes in Network18 and TV18.

BLOOMBERG’S TRYST WITH INDIA
  • Entered India in 2008 through a joint venture (JV) with UTV Software (then owned by Ronnie Screwvala) and launched TV channel UTVi
  • UTVi rebranded as Bloomberg UTV in 2009
  • In 2012, UTV exited the JV as Disney bought over Screwvala’s company
  • Same year, Anil Ambani bought into the JV through Business Broadcast News and the channel was rebranded Bloomberg TV India. Ambani’s firm and Bloomberg had ended their tie-up last week
RAGHAV BAHL’S JOURNEY IN MEDIA
  • Founded Network18 in 1993
  • Entered JV with Viacom through TV18 (subsidiary of Network18) to launch Viacom18, which runs entertainment channels
  • Raised Rs 1,700 crore from Mukesh Ambani’s Independent Media Trust (IMT) to retire debt and fund the acquisition of ETV channels in 2012
  • Exited Network18 after IMT acquired Network18 and all its subsidiaries in 2014

The companies had decided to go for an open offer to raise Rs 4,000 crore for retiring debt and buying stakes in regional channels of the Hyderabad-based Eenadu Network. To maintain his promoter stake in the company, Bahl needed Rs 1,700 crore, which he received from IMT in the form of optionally convertible debentures. The acquisition of Network18 was triggered after the debt was converted into equity. As part of the deal Reliance Industries' broadband subsidiary had 'preferential' access to all web and media properties of Bahl's media network. Bahl stepped down from his post as managing director at Network18 and left the company he founded to start Quintillion.

When contacted by Business Standard, Raghav Bahl declined to comment.

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First Published: Tue, January 26 2016. 00:57 IST
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