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Facebook invests $5.7bn in Jio stake, launches gaming app

The logo of Jio is seen at the facade of the Jio World Centre (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)

Social media giant Facebook has invested $5.7bn (€5.24bn) in Jio in a move that makes it the largest minority shareholder in the Indian digital platform.

The investment of a 9.99-per-cent stake in digital technology arm Jio Platforms followed the announcement that Facebook had launched its new gaming app as it looks to strengthen its position in the esports streaming sector.

Jio Platforms forms part of the Reliance Industries conglomerate and Facebook said the investment underscores its commitment to India. The announcement comes after it was reported last month that Facebook was in talks for the stake in Jio.

The move is designed to open up opportunities for business in India, with a particular focus to be placed on the country’s 60 million small businesses.

Facebook will work with Jio to create new ways for businesses to operate more effectively in the growing digital economy. The JioMart small business initiative will also use technology from Facebook-owned WhatsApp to enable people to connect with businesses.

Jio has more than 370 million subscribers and its JioTV video streaming service carries sports content, including domestic streaming rights to cricket matches organised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India through an agreement with Star India.

India is also the site of Facebook’s biggest ever bid for sports content, a failed $600m pitch for the BCCI digital rights. It currently holds LaLiga football rights in the Indian subcontinent, in a deal running 2018-19 to 2020-21.

Meanwhile, Facebook has officially launched its Facebook Gaming app on Google Play. Facebook said the app is a “focused, gaming-only experience” for consumers to watch streamers, play instant games and take part in gaming groups.

Facebook had intended on launching the app in June but has brought this forward with people forced to stay at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic. An iOS app is set to launch in due course.

The app will be similar to Facebook’s Gaming tab on its website and will also feature a ‘Go Live’ feature to allow users to stream footage directly from their smartphone to Facebook.

Facebook Gaming joins a competitive gaming streaming scene, which already includes the likes of Twitch, YouTube and Microsoft-owned Mixer.

The app has been in testing in Asia and Latin America for the past 18 months. Facebook will explore more monetisation options over time, reports CNBC.