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Disney to Take Controlling Stake in India's UTV

In another example of the U.S. entertainment companies looking to expand their presence in the rapidly growing Indian market, The Walt Disney Company announced that it will acquire, through a subsidiary, a controlling interest in UTV Software Communications Ltd: one of India's top media and entertainment companies.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Prior to the announcement, Disney had already held a stake in UTV and had a considerable presence in India, where it currently owns the kids' television networks Disney Channel, Disney XD and Hungama and is the largest retail character licensor in the country.

Disney's mobile, internet and gaming division also creates some of India's most popular content, including Club Penguin, the virtual world for kids that launched in India in 2010.

When the deal is completed, Disney will be a major film studio, producing UTV and Disney-branded local films as well as a large broadcaster reaching more than 100 million viewers weekly in cable and satellite households across India.

It will also have a significant presence in digital media though UTV's Indiagames, the country's number one mobile gaming company, and a major TV producer. UTV currently distributes its content in 20 countries in seven languages and across 27 channels, and is the owner of six cable and satellite channels.

As part of the deal, Disney and UTV plan to merge their existing operations and UTV CEO Ronnie Screwvala has been named managing director, The Walt Disney Company India.

Screwvala will report to Andy Bird, chairman, Walt Disney International.

"Increasing our brand presence and reach in key international markets is a cornerstone of our growth strategy," Bird said in a statement. "This acquisition expands our footprint significantly and allows us to more effectively build, monetize and brand multi-platform franchises, and deliver a rich library of content to the world's second largest population. We couldn't be more pleased that Ronnie, with his vast experience and proven track record, will now run our operations in India. Under his leadership, we will be able to deliver more programming on more platforms to this considerable audience."

"In combining the creative capabilities of each company we will integrate a large stable of vibrant brands and franchises in the branded entertainment space," added Screwvala in a statement. "With the middle class expected to grow from 50 million to more than 500 million people by 2025, this market offers huge potential for us to deliver quality branded entertainment to consumers."