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How B4U’s expansion plans can go sour with Relativity Media’s financial crisis

MUMBAI: B4U Network’s plans to
launch a new pay TV channel, set up a
digital streaming technology platform
and produce a wide slate of movies
have possibly gone sour with joint
venture partner Relativity Media
reeling under deep financial crisis.
The JV, promising to invest $100
million, would have given B4U
Network, which is controlled by steel
magnate Lakshmi Mittal and London-
based industrialist Gokul Binani, a big
push in India. While having a stronger
business in some of the overseas
markets, B4U’s Hindi movie and music
channels have been struggling to move
up the ladder in the Indian market
that is dominated by bigger broadcast
The two companies had also signed a
deal with Balaji Motion Pictures to
produce three movies. Balaji Telefilms
joint MD and creative director Ekta
Kapoor had then said, “The co-
production tie-up brings us
unprecedented access to Relativity’s
catalogue past and future, and allows
for the films to be re-imagined for
India. Relativity boasts an exciting
array of films and a creative
collaboration with Relativity is
something that excites all of us at
Though rescued from near bankruptcy
by Toronto-based Catalyst Capital
Group, Relativity Media will not have
a cash pot that will allow it to splurge
on the Indian JV company.
Catalyst has acquired all of
Relativity’s senior secured debt
amounting to $150 million. Besides,
the Canadian investment firm is
investing $170 million of equity.
However, Relativity Media is not free
of its clutch of debt-holders,
including Colbeck Capital, and is in
negotiations with them for a one-
year payment extension.
Relativity Media will focus on bigger
issues and keep alive the high-profit
projects. A problem with the company
has been that its recent movies have
not done well at the box office. The
US-based entertainment company’s
other challenge is to cut down on its
large overheads, which cannot be
sustained by a business model that
focuses on films that earn less than
$100 million worldwide.
Although Relativity Media is planning
to raise capital through an initial
public offering (IPO) next year, its
fate is uncertain at this stage. The
company has made movies like ‘The
Fighter’, ‘Three Days to Kill’ and ‘The
Best of Me’.
B4U and Relativity Media were
planning to co-produce and distribute
Indian-language films and television
shows. The JV would also distribute
future Relativity films and other
select entertainment content in India
and the surrounding regions.
Moreover, the two companies had
revealed plans to launch a pay TV
channel focused on Hollywood content
in both English and Hindi, besides a
digital streaming technology platform
called RelaTV to deliver short- and
long-format content to Indian
“It is unlikely that Relativity Media
would actively invest in the Indian JV
at this stage. B4U’s growth prospects
through the JV will have to wait,”
said a media analyst.
An email questionnaire sent to B4U
CEO Ishan Saksena remained
unanswered till the filing of this
In India, B4U owns and operates two
channels, B4U Movies and B4U Music.
The two channels are also available in
the US and the UK.
B4U also has a strong presence in
Middle East where it owns and
operates an Arabic-dubbed Bollywood
movie channel B4U Aflam and a hybrid
movie and music channel called B4U
The company has a full-fledged
theatrical distribution unit through
which it distributes Bollywood and
South Indian films worldwide.
The Relativity–B4U JV has so far
distributed only one Hollywood film,
‘The Best of Me’, in October. It is
slated to release its second film ‘The
Transporter Refueled’ on 4 September
in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.
In terms of producing local-language
Indian films, the JV is in the process
of completing its first project, the
Huma Qureshi- and Shakib Salim-
starrer ‘Zahhak’, which is a remake
of American psychological-
supernatural horror film ‘Oculus’.
Speaking at FICCI Frames earlier this
year, Relativity Media CEO Ryan
Kavanaugh had shed more light on the
JV’s plans going forward.
Kavanaugh had said that the JV
planned to remake three to five of
Relativity’s Hollywood films in local
Indian languages annually. The
languages being explored were Hindi,
Tamil, and Telugu. The aim, he had
stated, would be to make movies that
were rooted in India, but could also
travel abroad.
Apart from ‘Zahhak’, the JV was also
planning to remake 2014 French–
American action thriller ‘3 Days to
Kill’ and upcoming heist comedy
Besides remaking Relativity films, the
JV was also planning to co-produce a
movie with Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh
Sidhwani’s Excel Entertainment.
It had also inked a deal with
EuropaCorp to release films of
international studios in the country
and take Indian films to international
We are in India for the long haul. We
are not here to do quick business.
Each year, we will remake three to
five of our films in India. Our aim is
to open India to the world. We believe
that we can converge two worlds. We
aim to build a business that will last
for a century,” Kavanaugh had said at
the media conclave.
Kavanaugh had also boasted how 85
per cent of the movies that Relativity
made earned money. The key to
Relativity’s success was that it shot
films in places that offer tax
incentives, and unlike bigger
Hollywood studios, it did not have the
legacy infrastructure.
B4U will now have to wait for
Kavanaugh to turn around Relativity
Media before the JV gets to drive in
high gear.

How B4U’s expansion plans can go sour with Relativity Media’s financial crisis

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