The merger of Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) and Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) will create a giant entity with 75 channels beamed to a global audience including hundreds of millions in India.
The two companies have announced an exclusive, non-binding Term Sheet to combine both companies’ linear networks, digital assets, production operations and program libraries.
SPNI, a unit of Japan’s Sony Corp, operates 26 channels after it added two new channels in the sports genre and Zee has 49 channels.
Zee has a presence in over 173 countries and a reach of more than 1.3 billion people around the globe and reaches over 600 million individuals in India every week, while Sony reaches out to over 700 million viewers in India and is available in 167 countries.
Both networks have video streaming platforms -- ZEE5 and SonyLIV. Sony was also in the picture when Subhash Chandra, founder of Zee was looking for a buyer sale in 2019.
Zee-Sony merger to create largest entertainment network in India
In November 2018 Indian media conglomerate Zee Entertainment had decided to sell half of its promoter holding of about 42 percent in flagship Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL). The company called it a “strategic review of its business in the changing global media landscape”.
After Zee’s announcement, Macquarie Capital had said in a research note that a global partner will prove beneficial for Zee to plug gaps in the firm’s media-tech prowess.
Zee has a strong regional presence, with a 20 percent viewership share in the south market.
According to an Elara capital report, Zee Telugu entered the top 10 list with 7.8 percent viewership share in July. During the same period, Zee continued its leadership in Karnataka led by Zee Kannada, Assam/North East led by Zee Bangla, and in all other major regions. It was followed by the Star group that stood second.
Zee witnessed gains across markets for its regional channels, the report added. The channels that saw strong gains in July included Zee Bangla, Zee Kannada, Zee Anmol, Zee Tamil, Zee Keralam.
Along with general entertainment channels, Zee has a strong presence in the movie genre with 25 percent of the total television movie consumption in India happening on its network, the company said in its annual report.
With the Zee-Sony merger, viewers of the Sony network in India will have access to Zee's over 260,000 hours of television content and also its film library with rights to more than 4,800 movie titles across various languages.
Along with TV, movies and digital, Zee has also ventured into live events with Zee Live.
When it comes to Sony, the network has many sports properties on offer.
The broadcaster for the Indian cricket team’s tour of Australia this year saw close to 75 million viewers on Sony Sports TV channels for the test matches alone.
Overall, India's tour of Australia was watched by more than 100 million viewers on television.
Sony had also aired the Tokyo Olympics which recorded 69 million viewers in India in its opening week.
Along with cricket, Sony offers sports properties including WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), among others.
This is why the coming together of Zee and Sony will make the combined entity the largest network in India with 26 percent viewership share with Zee having 18 percent viewership share and Sony eight percent share.
Zee-Sony Pictures deal takes care of all stakeholders: Sources
ZEEL’s expertise in content creation and its consumer connect established over the last three decades, coupled with SPNI’s success across entertainment genres (including gaming and sports) will add significant value to the merged entity and its management team, thereby increasing shareholder value multifold, the company said in a statement.
"The value of the merged entity and the immense synergies drawn between both the conglomerates will not only boost business growth but will also enable shareholders to benefit from its future successes. As per legal and regulatory guidelines, at the required stage, the proposal will be presented to the esteemed shareholders of ZEEL for their approval," said R Gopalan, Chairman, ZEE Entertainment Enterprises Ltd.