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Reliance, Disney seek CCI approval for merger: Reuters report

The companies assure that their combined entity, particularly in cricket broadcasting, will not negatively impact advertisers.

Reliance Industries and Walt Disney have sought antitrust clearance for their $8.5 billion India merger, arguing that their combined entity, particularly in cricket broadcasting, will not negatively impact advertisers, sources familiar with the matter informed Reuters.

As per experts, the deal is expected to undergo rigorous scrutiny, as it will establish a big entertainment entity, constituting 120 TV channels and two streaming services. Additionally, the merged company will hold lucrative rights to cricket, the country's most popular sport.

Reliance and Disney have informed the Competition Commission of India (CCI) that the cricket rights were acquired through a competitive bidding process, according to two sources who requested anonymity due to the confidentiality of the approval process.

The companies argue that other competitors will not be disadvantaged, as they will have the opportunity to bid for these rights when they expire in 2027 and 2028, the sources added. The CCI will now review the confidential filing. While clearance typically takes several weeks, the process could be prolonged if the watchdog requires additional information.

Disney and Reliance currently hold digital and TV cricket rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL), International Cricket Council matches, and games organised by the Indian cricket board.

This concentration of rights has sparked concerns that the merged entity could exert significant leverage over advertisers and consumers. In March, K.K. Sharma, a former head of mergers at the CCI, noted that the regulator might be worried because "hardly anything of cricket will be left" outside Disney-Reliance's control, giving them "absolute control over cricket."

The deal is poised to reshape India's $28 billion media and entertainment market, positioning the Reliance-Disney combination to compete with major players like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee Entertainment, and Sony.

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