What is KKR-backed Emerald's media play?

Rajesh Kamat, managing director, Emerald Media
What do Motu-Patlu and the English Premier League have in common? 

Emerald Media. In January this year, this global investment firm KKR-backed $300 million pan-Asian investment fund picked up a controlling stake in Cosmos-Maya, which created the hugely popular kids series. Last month, it picked up a ‘significant minority’ in Global Sports Commerce (GSC), which partners with the EPL along with other leagues such as FIFA and IPL. This takes the count of firms it has invested in to five. It manages another five for its original parent CA Media (see table). The firms are an interesting mix of content, platforms, ad-tech, a broadcast station and one e-commerce company.

Emerald’s latest buy, Global Sports Commerce, works across 10 countries to offer LED signage, sponsorship, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) and drone-based data acquisition. So is it a technology or a media firm? “It depends on the skin you put on that sector,” says Rajesh Kamat, managing director, Emerald Media. Red Bird drone technology is used in mining and other industries. But “GSC uses it to capture rugby and cricket. So why is it media? Because this is for footage meant for media,” says Kamat. “Similarly, can an AR-VR firm be only a media firm? No, because the technology is also used for medical purposes. When we invest in these firms (like GSC), the technology is valuable because it is used for media and entertainment,” says Kamat.  

He points to the Emerald portfolio. “Content is the epicentre of all actions. Technology may disrupt screens; so YuppTV is about technology disruption (of screens) and subscription-based streaming services focused on people with the ability to pay (mainly expats). Technology may disrupt playouts; therefore Amagi because it helps ad serving,” says he.

The Emerald portfolio then is a mini media and entertainment ecosystem, which has its own synergies with Kamat and his colleague Paul Aiello. The two have over 40 years of operational and investment experience in media.  

“Rajesh was operationally involved with several media brands (as head of Endemol and Colors among others) and I bring the technology. So when there is negotiation involved with broadcasters to get content rights, it helps,” says Uday Reddy, Founder and CEO of YuppTV. Ketan Mehta, managing director of Cosmos-Maya, endorses “Emerald’s domain knowledge and management bandwidth”. It is this knowledge that the duo used to narrow down to 10 firms after a detailed analysis of 50-60, from a total of 600 assets that were offered to them. 

Has it meant better returns? Except for selling off a part of OML, an event management firm to a large Indian media group, there have been no exits. “OML is a mature asset and should find a strategic investor,” says Mihir Shah, vice-president of Singapore-based consulting firm Media Partners Asia. Kamat declines to talk about numbers regarding return on investment or otherwise, but the usual norm is a 30 per cent.

The first set of five firms under CA Media were early-stage investments with a window of five-seven years. For these, “We will be working on the exits (now),” says Kamat.  The second set, the ones Emerald Media invested on its own, will have a four-six-year window. So whether Cosmos-Maya, Global Sports Commerce or YuppTV is a good buy will be apparent only after 2020. 

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