India’s UTV Invests in Toons, Games

Mumbai-based UTV Software Communications Ltd. is getting into the animated feature business by investing $30 million into three movies. In addition, the company has shelled out $13 million to acquire 70% of U.K. gaming company Ignition Ent., and another $15 million to grab a 51% stake in Indian mobile gaming leader Indiagames. Accordng to reports in the Indian press, the acquisitions will make UTV Software largest gaming and animation company in India.

UTV is making its first foray into the animated movie market with a feature titled The Dream Blanket. The production will be directed by Simi Nallaseth, who was a key animator on Fox Animation’s Ice Age. Blanket will be followed by Arjun, a film based on a character from Indian mythology, and the third will be co-produced with Will Smith’s Overbrook Ent.

Ignition creates games for such industry leaders as Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony, and is presently developing War Devil, a AAA title to be released exclusively for PlayStation 3 in 2008. The company reportedly recorded revenues of $15 million for 2006, while Indiagames took in around $5 million. Indiagames’ mobile titles are available in 37 countries via such leading carriers as Verizon, Vodaphone and O2.

The Walt Disney Co. owns a 14.9% stake in the publicly traded UTV, and recently acquired its children’s network, Hungama TV, for $30.5 million. Launched in September of 2004, Hungama is a 24-hour Hindi-language cable channel which consistently ranks among India’s top kids’ TV outlets.